by Bruce Baskin
February 22, 2021 - Mexican League (ML)
GUASAVE ALGODONEROS TO PLAY IN SPANISH TOURNAMENT
The Guasave Algodoneros are planning to make a trip across the Atlantic Ocean this fall to play in a tournament involving European teams and perhaps an Asian squad as well. The Cottoneers announced last week that they'll be taking part in the Barcelona Baseball Cup between September 26 and October 3, thus making them the first professional team from Mexico to play on the European continent.
Taking part in the virtual press conference were three event organizers (Catalan Federation of Baseball and Softball president Jordi Valles Mestres, Barcelona Baseball Cup CEO Rafaael Llames Cabrera and Base Internacional SA managing director Miguel Pazcabrales) along with Guasave general director Luis Fernando Garcia and team sports manager Alejandro Ahumada. According to a press release from the Algodoneros, Valles explained that the inclusion of a Mexican team in the tournament will cause a huge impact, since there is "a large Latino population that likes baseball."
The Barcelona Baseball Cup will be played in two venues: The first is Estadio Carlos Perez de Rozas (home of the Division of Honor's BC Barcelona), while other games will take place at the C.B. Viladecans' ballpark, which was used for baseball during the 1992 Summer Olympics. Training will take place in Sant Boi, site of another Spanish League team.
Besides the Algodoneros, teams from Italy, The Netherlands and host Spain will take part in the tournament, while efforts are being made to include at least one team from Asia. Depending on which (if any) team comes over from Asia, Guasave may be the tournament favorite going in due to both Mexico's fifth-ranked status in the latest World Baseball Softball Confederation ratings as well as the comparatively higher level of play in the Mexican Pacific League.
The Netherlands (#9) and Italy (#17) are long established as Europe's premier baseball-playing nations (although the #16 Czech Republic has passed Italy in the rankings) and both have played in multiple World Baseball Classics, but neither the Dutch Major League nor Italian Serie A1 are regarded as competitive as the LMP. Spain (#20) is among the second tier of European baseball countries along with Germany (#19), France (#25) and Belgium (#26). The Division of Honor is one of the top leagues in Europe but professional players are in the minority and the only advantage any chosen host team will have in the Barcelona Baseball Cup is home-field advantage.
BORDER BOUNCE: GARCIA OUT IN MEXICALI, ROMERO CANNED IN TIJUANA
For years, Baseball Mexico has chronicled the so-called "Mexican managerial merry-go-round," in which field managers are hired, fired and recycled at a rate unseen in professional baseball north of the border. Case in point: The Quintana Roo Tigres last week parted ways with helmsman Adan Munoz and replaced him with another ex-catcher, Hector Paez. Munoz was hired to replace Jesus Sommers as skipper of the Cancun team on May 9, 2019 and led the Tigres to a 62-57 regular season record and a playoff berth. Paez had served as Munoz' bench coach.
While the revolving door may not spin quite as fast in the front offices, being a general manager of a Mexican baseball franchise is still not the most stable way to warn a living. Two of the most difficult teams to work sit less that 100 miles from each other on the border with the United States in Baja California Norte and both are seeking to replace their respective GMs after departures of two respected former players last week.
Luis Alfonso Garcia's "separation from the position of Sports Manager" was announced by the Mexicali Aguilas of the Mexican Pacific League. Garcia took over as GM in Mexicali in February 2019 and while the team did reach the playoffs each of the past two seasons, the Aguilas failed to make it past the first round both times and that was enough for owner Dio Alberto Murillo to make a change.
Garcia, a 42-year-old Guadalajara native who spent a couple seasons as a first baseman in Japan during a 21-year career that saw him belt a combined 395 homers on both sides of the Pacific, released a statement thanking the Aguilas "for the opportunity they gave me to perform this role. It was a great experience where I was able to develop in a different and new facet for me, applying my knowledge within baseball."
In a press release, the team said they "appreciate the dedication and professionalism shown by Luis Alfonso GarcÃa during the time he was in charge of this important position, wishing much success in his professional career and personal projects." The Aguilas earlier announced that field manager Bronswell Patrick will be back for the 2021-22 season, or at least the start of it.
Meanwhile, the Mexican League's Tijuana Toros announced last week "that as of this date, Ãscar Romero will leave the position of sports manager in the organization," adding that the move "is generated by mutual agreement." Romero was hired by the Toros in September 2016, shortly after their loss to Puebla in the Serie del Rey championships, 4 games to 2. Replacing former MLB pitcher Jorge Campillo, Romero served as Tijuana's sports manager for the next four-plus years, during which the team has had a quartet of managers (Pedro Mere, Lino Rivera, Oscar Robles and now Omar Vizquel) while winning the 2017 LMB pennant under Mere.
However, in the "What-have-you-done-for-me-lately?" environment under the Uribe family (who are every bit as expectant of titles as Murillo in Mexicali), the Toros have since failed to reach the Serie del Rey in either of two truncated 2018 seasons or in 2019, which could not have made the job easier for Romero, who spent 13 years in the Liga as an infielder for eight teams before retiring as a player in 2003. His son, Oscar Junior, is a 19-year-old third baseman in the Toros organization who led the National League of Prospects (LNP) in 2019 with a .434 batting average.
The team released a standard statement about Romero similar to the one above regarding Garcia: "The board of the Club de Beisbol Toros de Tijuana appreciates the effort, work and professionalism of Ãscar Romero Tirado throughout more than four years and wishes him the best of success in future projects."
Before he left, Romero did sign outfielder Johnny Davis as an import player for 2021. The 30-year-old speedster from California spent six years in the Brewers system before coming to the Mexican League for the Fall 2018 schedule. In two seasons, the Compton Comet hit over .300 and led the LMB in stolen bases both campaigns before he was signed by Tampa Bay and made his MLB debut later that year.
It's not known what effect the ouster will have on current manager Vizquel, a Hall of Fame candidate who Romero brought in prior to the abandoned 2020 season but has since been charged with domestic violence by his second wife, which led to a drop in votes among baseball writers for enshrinement in Cooperstown this winter.
BEISBOL PURO INTERVIEWS MARIACHIS' TEAM PRESIDENT
They have a shortlist of possible managers but have never included names such as Benjamin Gil or Sergio Gastélum; AdriÃ¡n "El TitÃ¡n" GonzÃ¡lez is someone they'd like to add as a player; they're looking for stellar players who enhance the arrival of the franchise to the Mexican League...these are some of the plans of the Mariachis de Guadalajara.
In a telephone conversation with Beisbol Puro editor Roberto Espinosa, Mariachis president Rafael "Fayo" Tejeda points out that the management is on the right track to make the Pan American Stadium (aka Estadio Charros) their home, and reveals that the Mariachis already have a roster of more than 30 players. On the other hand, Tejeda says that neither he nor his partner Carlos "Calo" Valenzuela had in mind to have a baseball franchise in the summer, but was something that the LMB office offered them and that they did not hesitate to to accept.
Here is Beisbol Puro's translated interview with Tejada:
Why has so little officially been known about the Mariachis?
"It's that just last month we participated in the Assembly of Presidents with owners of the Mexican League. There we were officially accepted and from then on, we are already an expansion franchise in the league.
"We have not done many official things for the same reason. We are very respectful of the times and had not wanted to give so many statements until we were authorized. It was one thing that the president of the republic (who loves baseball) had announced us, and another that the LMB would authorize us to enter, and that just happened last week in the Assembly."
Pablo Lemus, mayor of Zapopan, where the Pan American Baseball Stadium is located, declared in early December that the Guadalajara Mariachis should look for a stadium to play in Guadalajara and made it clear that the Mariachis would not be able to play there in the summer. what do you think of that?
"We are in a process so the Mariachis have everything legal so that we can use the Pan American Stadium. That is an issue that our legal team is already addressing...we are young businessmen who somehow did not know the whole process to be able to use the stadium, so we have already been talking with them and everything is on the right track. We are trying to do everything necessary to legally comply and be able to use the stadium."
How ambitious is the Mariachis project?
"We have an important project not only for the city, but for the entire metropolitan area of Guadalajara, and this project will benefit the entire state because there will be jobs and everything that generates a show.
"We come from an atypical year like 2020, and for young entrepreneurs to come to invest in this beautiful sport, I think it should be valued, and the government people have already told us that we have all their support, and they only asked us to do what pertinent on the legal issue so that everything works. We have really received a very kind treatment from all of them, always looking for a way to make everything possible."
What can your fans expect?
"We want Guadalajara to continue with the quality it deserves in all aspects, so we seek to have an office, a technical body and a team that is in accordance with what the city deserves.
"We seek to have an experienced team, although we will also give young people the opportunity, but we want people who come to capitalize, to give us quality and experience.
"We are thinking that any type of name can come to the Mariachis. We want great players, whatever their names are. We have foreign players on the table who have played in the Major Leagues and who want to play in the summer in Mexico, which we can probably hire. We are looking for a 'Ronaldinho' of baseball ".
AdriÃ¡n 'El TitÃ¡n' GonzÃ¡lez has been mentioned as a probable contract to play with Mariachis. How likely can it be that this is achieved, especially considering that the Veracruz Aguilas have announced him as a partner?
"What I can tell you is that in the part that we learned about, AdriÃ¡n was not coming with Veracruz as a partner. We would all love to have a figure with the stature of AdriÃ¡n. I looked for AdriÃ¡n to tell him that we have not announced anything about him and that we were not misusing his image. He told me that the only thing he could tell me was that he had prepared to play the 2020 Olympic Games but now with this issue of the pandemic, he no longer knows what is going to happen."
We learned that you already have people working in the front office like Francisco MinjÃ¡rez and Luis Alonso Mendoza...
"Yes, in the office the sports director is Francisco MinjÃ¡rez and we have Luis Alonso Mendoza as sports manager, who is already retiring as a player and is now undertaking a new role with us. It was not easy to offer him the position and ask him to retire, but he discussed it with his family and decided that it was a good option to stop playing and start another facet.
"As a hitting coach we will have Wilie Romero, who is a very well-known person in Mexican baseball. For now, they are the people we have defined."
What about the manager? Much has been said about BenjamÃn Gil and Sergio Omar Gastélum as options to direct the Mariachis...
"We haven't talked to Benji Gil at all. Sergio is not an option. He has to digest this moment first (his departure from Diablos Rojos del México), and later he will be able to see his work options, but with us for now he is not contemplated.
"At the table we have Mexican and foreign managers, but neither Benji nor Sergio Omar is there."
Do you already have players contemplated for your roster?
"We already have a base of more or less 30 players, but it will be announced when the moment is right."
Has it been difficult to negotiate to get players from the other teams?
"No, I would say that it is something normal in the market of purchases, sale and trades. It was just knocking on the doors of the other teams and talking to them. The owners have been very accessible and inclusive."
By the way, how did the idea of having a baseball franchise in the LMB come up?
"We did not seek the franchise, we did not see this panorama. This opportunity opened up for us and we did not think twice about it, but this was in early December when we knew we were going to enter it.
"Neither I nor my partner (Carlos Valenzuela) had asked for a summer baseball franchise but when the opportunity arose, we entered it for the taste of baseball. The Liga looked for us. They told us that Guadalajara could not stay without summer baseball and, knowing that we are baseball people, they offered it to us and we joined them."
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