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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
September 7, 2020 - Mexican League (ML)

MEX PAC TEAMS START OPENING TRAINING CAMPS

With the scheduled start of the 2020-21 regular season a little over a month away, Mexican Pacific League teams are beginning to open their training camps as players trickle in from across Mexico and elsewhere to start loosening up for their October 15 openers.

The Hermosillo Naranjeros opened camp last Tuesday at Estadio Sonora under new manager Juan Navarrete, a Salon de la Fama member who replaced former MLB star Vinny Castilla at the helm of the Orangmen. After going through preliminary protocols for the Wuhan virus, players broke into groups who worked out under the eye of Navarrete's coaching staff, which includes ex-MLBers Erubiel Durazo, Maximino Leon and Elmer Dessens plus former Mexican League star Cornelio Garcia. Among the players who reported to Hermosillo the first day were veteran pitchers Juan Pablo Oramas and Jose Samayoa, 2018-19 LMP Rookie of the Year infielder Jasson Atondo and outfielder Norberto Obeso, who hit .283 last winter for his hometown Naranjeros after batting .276 over five seasons in the Blue Jays farm system.

Although the Mexicali Aguilas aren't scheduled to open their training camp until this Thursday, three pitchers showed up early for a three-day minicamp over the past weekend. Starters Javier Solano and Eduardo Vera were joined by closer Jake Sanchez. The trio of right-handers performed calisthentics and bullpen sessions under pitching coach Bronswell Patrick after going through virus protocols. They also worked on situation pitching from the mound at La Nida, the Eagles home ballpark.

Solano, a former Dodgers farmhand who physically resembles one-time Detroit hurler Mickey Lolich, is preparing for his eighth winter in Mexicali. The LMP's 2015-16 Pitcher of the Year was only 3-5 last season but otherwise had a strong campaign in the border city, with a Mex Pac-leading 2.23 ERA while tossing the only complete game shutout of the season. The 30-year-old Solano, who spent five seasons with Hermosillo before coming to the Aguilas, has a lifetime 44-30 record and 3.60 in 160 outings over 12 seasons.

Other LMP teams will open their respective camps over the next couple of weeks as various clubs announce their training invitees. Defending champion Culiacan, who'll begin training next Monday at Estadio Tomateros, are requesting the presence of 48 players (28 of them pitchers). Among the invited are infielders Joey Meneses, Efren Navarro, Jose Guadalupe Chavez and Ramiro Pena, all mainstays of last winter's title team, plus newcomer Michael Wing, who was aquired in a trade from Monterrey earlier this summer. Outfielder Sebastian Elizalde will be back, as will pitchers Manny Barreda, Danny Rodriguez, Anthony Vazquez, Aldo Montes and Alberto Baldonado.

The Los Mochis Caneros have likewise announced their 50-player list of camp invitees. Among the more familar names will be third baseman Rudy Amador, infielder Esteban Quiroz, designated hitter Saul Soto, second baseman Isaac Rodriguez (the 2019-20 LMP batting champion), outfielder Leandro Castro and pitchers Andres Avila, who only went 2-6 but whose 2.48 ERA over 10 starts bettered teammate (and LMP Pitcher of the Year) Yoanys Quiala's 2.57. Los Mochis will have a good lineup and pitching staff if everyone comes to play under manager Victor Bojorquez and could be a darkhorse to unseat Culiacan from the throne.

A full slate of five games on Thursday, October 15 will kick off season-opening four-game series: Hermosillo at Navojoa, Mexicali at Obregon, Mazatlan at Los Mochis, Guasave at Culiacan and Jalisco at Monterrey. The Sultanes had earlier announced plans to move their home games to Mazatlan, where they'd have shared Estadio Teodoro Mariscal with the Venados, but have decided to play at home in Estadio Monterrey as usual.

LITTLE LEAGUE HERO MACIAS IN FAILING HEALTH, HELP NEEDED

Ambidextrous pitcher Angel Macias' 4-0 perfect game win (as a right-hander) for Monterrey over La Mesa, California in the 1957 Little League World Series championship game made the Mexican team the first from outside the United States to win the LLWS title.

It also made an international star of Macias, who was profiled in two subsequent movies, and led to a 13-year professional career in both the Los Angeles Angels farm system and the Mexican League, where he was an outfielder for the Reynosa Broncos and Monterrey Sultanes between 1963 and 1974, when he retired at age 30 after the season. Macias is not a member of the Salon de la Fama in Monterrey despite his heroics and solid professional career, but he was enshrined in Little League Baseball's Hall of Excellence in 2017.

However, Macias (now 76) has been going through difficult times regarding his health due to complications from Alzheimer's Disease, and his family is asking baseball fans around the world for financial assistance.

Monterrey Sultanes owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz was a teammate of Macias' in that historic 1957 run that opened the door for teams and players from Latin America, Asia and Europe to participate in the Little League World Series and often enjoy success (most notably teams from Taiwan that won 17 titles between 1969 and 1996). Maiz explains that Alzheimer's has created extra problems for Macias over the past several months, a sad state for someone who has meant so much to the worldwide growth of Little League Baseball.

"He is the one who most promoted Little League not only at the national level, but at the world level," say Maiz, who presently serves as Mexico's Little League director in addition to his role with the Sultanes. "With his perfect game, Little League Baseball went to the East, with countries like Taiwan, Korea and China, and also to Central and South America." Add to that list Japan, which has won 11 LLWS championships (eight since 1999).

SeptimaEntrada.com says Macias' wife has confirmed that Angel's declining health has forced the family to sell some of their possessions in order to cover his expenses.

During a past interview with Grand Slam's Gaspar Garza Gandara, Macias said he felt no pressure while throwing his perfecto against La Mesa in the championship game (the only time that's happened in a LLWS). "No, no, no, nothing," exclaimed Macias. "It was like a normal game for us. We knew it was an important game but we played it without pressure. We did it and things worked out." Macias struck out 11 batters in six innings.

He added that after recording the final out, the team congregated on the mound to celebrate before heading to the showers because their uniforms were so dirty after not having been washed the whole tournament. Asked if not washing the uniform for 13 games was a team cabal, Macias laughed and said, "Of course it was! It was a cabal!"

Macias said winning the LLWS changed the lives of everyone on the team: "What happened is that in one way or another, the doors were opened everywhere. We had the opportunity to get scholarships in schools. Then we played professional baseball. We had many nice, pleasant things that we enjoyed."

The Aguascalientes-born Macias had mixed opinions regarding the two movies made of the 1957 Monterrey Little League team. He praised the 1960 film, "The Little Giants," saying "The first one is almost 100!" Macias didn't think as highly of "The Perfect Game," which was released in 2010. "It's very different because the approach they gave me didn't seem like me personally. They could've done better than that because it had no impact on people. It went completely unnoticed."

If any Baseball Mexico readers would like to help Angel Macias and his family in a time of needs, an account has been set up for direct deposits at www.SantanderBank.com. The account number is 60-593737105.

FROM TECOS TO TACOS: P OMANA WORKS STAND DURING LMB SHUTDOWN

In the wake of the Mexican League cancelling its 2020 season due to the ongoing pandemic, players and coaches have had to scramble to make up for the lost income until some can perform in the Mexican Pacific League between October and January. Most LMB teams are not paying their players as promised, so people like Dos Laredos Tecolotes pitcher Henry Omana have had to look outside baseball to make ends.

The California-born Omana played two years of college ball at Cal State Fullerton before transferring to Cal Poly Pomona, where the 6'4" right-hander went 6-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 2017. He signed with Monclova of the Mexican League and began his professional career with the Acereros that summer.

The following is a translated feature on Omana from SeptimaEntrada.com:

He should be on top of the hill pitching for Los Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos, but the 'new reality' has him in front of a grill, making tacos in the United States.

Since there is no season in the Mexican League, many players have had to look for different alternatives to be able to support their family, and pitcher Henry Omaña is one of those responsible for 'Tacos Omaña, a taqueria in Greater Los Angeles, California.

This site started in the 1980s and is a business in which Henry and his brothers David and Christian participate. The pitcher has worked at this site since he was young but when he became a professional player, he could only work there when he was not called up to a winter league.

What activities does Henry do at the taqueria? "I work making tacos...I'm a cook. Whatever my brother David (the manager) needs, I do," he mentioned. "Also, if they need me to go to the store for meat and different things or if they want me in front (at the checkout), I do it. I am a general assistant."

The taqueria belongs to the father, David acts as manager and Christian is in charge of the administration of the place, which began when his grandfather began selling tacos at a swap meet. The business later settled into a place in South El Monte, 15 miles from Los Angeles. They already have two more restaurants on that site.

The roots of the native of San Dimas, California come from Huatabampo, Sonora with his father Henry, and from Jalisco with mother Yolanda.

These origins favor the taqueria, offering a variety of ingredients and dishes such as a green chili plate, roast beef donkeys, the 'taco perrón', as well as the inevitable shepherd, chicharrón, red chili, tripe, crop and head. "In Pomona there are many taquerías nearby but people like to come with us for the green chili plate and the salsa," answered Henry when questioned how the business is doing in that town. "My brother makes a very good sauce and I think that people come to us more."

Although at this moment there is no professional baseball and he is focused on the taqueria, Omaña remains in the practice of baseball, training young people with sessions in batting cages, infields and various exercises. 2020 was to be his fourth season in the Mexican League, in which he arrived in 2017 with the Monclova Acereros before migrating to the Puebla Pericos the following year. It was in the final part of the 2019 campaign that he wore the colors of the Tecolotes. Before coming to Dos Laredos, he had three victories with the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association.


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Mexican League Stories from September 7, 2020


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