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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
December 2, 2019 - Mexican League (ML)

MEXICAN LEAGUE CHOOSES NEW PRESIDENT

The Mexican League has named Horacio de la Vega as their new president. The 44-year-old de la Vegas is a Mexico City native and two-time Olympic pentathlete for Mexico (1996 and 2000) with a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas and has an extensive background in sports. He'll replace Javier Salinas, a former Liga MX pro soccer marketing executive who served as LMB president for two years before leaving office following the 2019 season.

De la Vega was the Commercial and Marketing Director for the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara prior to serving as General Director of Sports in Mexico City, helping coordinate events involving the NFL, MLB, NBA, PGA, UFC and Formula One organizations, among others. During his time in Mexico City, according to an LMB press release, de la Vega oversaw more than 35 international sporting events per year along with about 400 local or national events.

He was Mexico City Commissioner for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico, general coordinator for the 2016 MLB Mexico Series between the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros and Fray Nano Stadium, one of the main drivers of the 2015 Mexican League Home Run Derby in Mexico City's Zocalo (the first time a public square was converted into a ballpark) and helped stage NFL and NBA games in Mexico City. De la Vega was also president of the organizing committee for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He most recently was a senior advisor for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

De la Vega will take the Mexican League reins from longtime Liga executive Gabriel Medina, who served as interim president after the LMB and Salinas parted ways. He'll inherit a 16-team circuit in which many franchises are bleeding red ink with teams playing in front of sparse crowds, although the league did top five million in attendance for the first time since before the turn of the 21st Century. The vote to name the former National Sports Award winner as a pentathlete reportedly involved all teams, a change from Salinas' 2017 selection originating from just three owners.

CHARROS WIN 7 OF FIRST 8 GAMES TO OPEN LMP SECOND HALF

The Jalisco Charros had a good first half to their Mexican Pacific League season, finishing one game behind first place Obregon with a 21-14 to come in third, garnering eight playoff points in the bargain. Now the Guadalajara side has broken out the second-half gate in a big way by winning seven of their first eight games to take a two-game lead over the 5-2 Mexicali Aguilas, who are trying to rebound from an 18-24 showing in a first half that saw manager Bobby Dickerson fired and replaced by Pedro Mere (whose coaching staff includes former skippers Eddy Castro, Bronswell Patrick and Adan Munoz, who was canned as Navojoa helmsman in the first half).

Back to Jalisco, the defending champions have shown well under manager Roberto Vizcarra. The Charros have a veteran roster that includes catcher Bruce Maxwell, infielders Stephen Cardullo, Manny Rodriguez, Amadeo Zazueta and Agustin Murillo plus outfielders Carlos Figueroa, Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez. Four Jalisco everyday starters are batting over .300, led by Zazueta's .350 average and Figueroa at .333. Much of the power has been supplied by Alvarez, whose team-leading eight homers and 33 RBIs supplement his .295 average. The Cuban-born rightfielder played six winters in that country's National Series before signing with Baltimore in 2013 (and eventually had two cups of coffee with the Orioles). Alvarez is not regarded as a power hitter, per se, but he's found his groove in Guadalajara after belting 14 roundtrippers for the Charros last season to finish second in the MexPac behind the 15 of Navojoa's Joan Rosa.

Jalisco's pitching staff isn't as star-studded as their daily lineup, with a team ERA of 3.88 in the bottom half among the LMP's ten teams, but Guadalajara is not the easiest place to pitch with its high altitude so those numbers can be a little deceiving at first glance. The best starter thus far this season has been lefty veteran Marco Tovar, whose 3-2 record hides an ERA of 2.19 that ranks fourth among qualifying MexPac hurlers. Tovar is a 30-year-old Tijuana product who's pitched in five Mexican League All-Star Games and was named the LMB's Pitcher of the Year in 2011 after going 12-4 for Reynosa that summer. Among other Jarros starters, import Mitch Atkins, who pitched in several minor league All-Star Games and had two short stints with the Chicago Cubs in 2010 and 2011, is 4-3 with a 2.80 ERA (8th in the LMP) while Octavio Acosta has a perfect 4-0 record and a 4.03 ERA (12th in the loop). If the Charros have a weak spot, it's in the bullpen. Although closer Grant Sides is sixth in the league with seven saves, the former Indians farmhand isn't likely writing home about his 12.75 ERA or opponents' batting average of .373. Even so, you have to outscore your opponents to win a baseball game and the Charros have shown the offense to continue doing just that and are in good position to repeat as LMP champions.

The aforementioned Zazueta (he of the .350 average) now leads the MexPac in hitting, twelve points ahead of Christian Zazueta's .338 for Navojoa. Culiacan's Seastian Elizalde, Leandro Castro of Los Mochis and Monterrey's Michael Choice are all tied for the lead in homers with 10 each while Jalisco's Alvarez and Jesus Valdez of Obregon both top the RBI table with 33. Rico Noel of Culiacan recently stole five bases in a seven-game stretch to bring his season total to 20 swipes in 24 attempts, well ahead of the 13 apiece for Elizalde and Obregon's Taiki Sekine.

Los Mochis starting pitcher Yoanys Quiales picked up his first win since November 15 last Wednesday in Mazatlan to go to 7-1 for the season, comfortably ahead of eleven pitchers who have four wins each. One of them, Mike Kickham of Hermosillo, is tops in ERA at 1.96, with Mexicali's Greg Mahle in second at 2.01. Another four-win pitcher, Obregon's Brazilian starter Andre Rienzo, heads the strikeouts table with 51 ponches, six more than Quiales and Juan Pablos Oramas of Hermosillo. An Oramas teammate, Trey McNutt, is tied with Jose Rosario of Guasave with an LMP-best 11 saves while Obregon's Samuel Zazueta is best with 11 holds. It does not appear that any of the three Zazuetas are related.

LIGA NORTE EXPANDS TO SIX TEAMS; TWO MORE ON WAY?

The Northern Mexico League has added an expansion franchise with the Otay Industriales set to join the Class AA circuit in time for the 2020 season. At a recent LNM presidents meeting in Tijuana, five existing teams confirmed their participation next year, including the San Quintin Freseros, Caborca Rojos, Ensenada Marineros, La Paz Delfines and the defending champion San Luis Algodoneros. However, the main topic moving forward was expansion, with Otay brought into the fold and talk of two more new franchises to turn the LNM into an eight-team loop next season.

Mesa de Otay is not an independent city but rather a section of Tijuana, Baja California Norte. The Industriales will not play in Tijuana's Mexican League ballpark currently used by the Toros during the spring and summer. Instead, they'll play in Estadio Angel Camarena, a smaller facility where former MLB All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez cut his teeth as a young player, according to El Titan's father David. The elder Gonzalez is now general director of B.C. Norte's Institute of Sports and Physical Culture, and will help coordinate what is being called "a significant investment" in the ballpark's remodeling, to be completed by next April, prior to the 2020 LNM schedule.

Gonzalez was joined by Baja California Norte governor Jaime Bonilla, who tossed a ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural game of the Tijuana Amateur Baseball League in late October. The renovations were announced weeks before the new Liga Norte franchise was granted to Otay, but the two are undoubtedly linked to each other.

Representatives of a second possible team in Baja California Sur were on hand at the meeting. The LNM made its debut in that state last season when the La Paz Delfines took the field. No word on where a second team there would be located; the Los Cabos region is the only area with the population to support a franchise but the Mexican League Quintana Roo Tigres could probably testify that selling tickets to baseball games in a tourist center is not the easiest thing to do. Another potential expansion site was termed "an old acquaintance in the league" in a story posted on Puro Beisbol, but no further details could be given for now.

The Liga Norte also gave Tuesday, April 14 as their 2020 season inaugural date. If eight teams indeed play next year, each would play an 84-game schedule with the season wrapping up the second week of August. The LNM is still searching for an executive president, but that topic was tabled at the recent meeting. The president of the league's Board of Directors, San Luis Algodoneros owner Francisco Montano, has sat behind the big desk the past two years.

Notice to Readers: BBM to go monthly on interim basis

This will be the only Baseball Mexico scheduled to be posted in December. I'm moving from the U.S. Pacific Northwest to the Philippines this week and will need some time to somehow get settled during the holiday season. I'm moving to Baguio, a city of 370,000 with ten universities nestled nearly 5,000 feet above sea level in the Cordillera Mountains. Baguio is noted for its relatively cool temperatures and is nicknamed "The Summer Capital of the Philippines" for that reason.

They do play baseball in the Philippines, by the way, but only at the amateur or scholastic level. There IS a great old 12,000-seat ballpark in Manila named Jose Rizal Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1934 where the first homers hit were by guys named Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (you may have heard of them), and I would like to catch at least a couple ballgames there while it's still standing.

Anyway, Baseball Mexico will hopefully be back to a weekly basis by February 2020, just in time for the Caribbean Series. I'll try to post unscheduled updates between now and February when I can, but I expect to be a little preoccupied until then.


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Mexican League Stories from December 2, 2019


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