After completing my article on Hawaii Winter Baseball, I thought it was time to write an article on the history and present day situation of my favourite form of International Baseball: Mexican Baseball.
Mexico’s baseball roots are believed to be traced back to approximately 1847. American soldiers in the Mexican War introduced Mexicans to the game of baseball in various regions. The laying of track for the railroad, specifically the Monterrey-Tampico railway, played a large part in the spreading of baseball throughout the country, specifically northern Mexico. Colonel Joseph Robertson, who was from Tennessee and once served under General Robert E. Lee, introduced the game in Nuevo Leon when he granted his railroad workers a holiday on the fourth of July in 1889. Robertson and his workers celebrated by playing baseball.
The first organized Mexican League was formed in 1925 by Jorge Pasquel. Pasquel had major league ambitions and stocked his teams with Negro League stars. Furthermore he raided MLB players following World War II when there became a player surplus and accompanying pay cuts. Most of these defector players (23) joined the Quebec Provincial League soon after and Pasquel had to fold the league due to financial ruin in 1953. In 1955 the league resurfaced as a Class-AA minor league, then reorganized yet again in 1967 as a Class-AAA league and continues to this day as a summer league.
(Mexico’s other baseball league is the “Liga Mexicana del Pacifico” or Mexican Pacific League. It is a “high level” winter league where the winner of the league moves on to represent Mexico in the Caribbean League World Series. The winter league has a total of eight clubs that play a 68 game regular season schedule starting the second week of October and ending in December.)
The Mexican League is composed of 16 teams, divided equally among 2 divisions: the North Zone and the South Zone. The Mexican League is facing tough times as the popularity of baseball is waning in the country. Unlike other Caribbean countries such as the Dominican, Cuba, Venezuela et. al., it seems Mexicans have found a cure for the Beisbol fever that they once had and its name is Futbol.
Attendance at professional baseball games has been flat, with about 2.3 million tickets sold each year between 1998 and 2003, the latest year of data, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information Processing.
Meanwhile, soccer ticket sales rose 27 percent in the same period, to more than 4.9 million annually. As Mexicans become more affluent, they’re spending more on soccer than ever before.
Mexico City, a metropolis of 18 million people, has four pro soccer teams but only one baseball team, the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils). It plays in the Foro Sol, a stadium wedged into a corner of the Hermanos Rodriguez race car track.
A second team, the Tigers, moved to Puebla soon after the Social Security Stadium closed in 2001. Mexico’s second-biggest city, Guadalajara, doesn’t have a baseball team, but sports three top division soccer teams.
Mexican soccer jerseys can be bought on any street corner, but baseball paraphernalia is practically nonexistent. Much like Canada, Mexico’s media mostly ignore baseball.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers – a popular team among Mexicans – won the Super Bowl it dominated front pages across the country. The other big game on that Sunday, the Mazatlan Bucks’ 4-3 loss to a Venezuelan team at the Caribbean World Series, was relegated to the last pages of sports sections. (Sounds like what happens when a curling tournament is on or the Maple Leafs open training camp – doesn’t matter if the Jays are winning the World Series in Toronto)
While the Mexican Soccer Federation has cultivated its sport nationwide, baseball remains a regional game. Twenty-seven percent of the Mexican Baseball League’s 445 players come from one state, Sinaloa, with another 20 percent coming from neighbouring Sonora. Another problem is that Mexicans never get to see homegrown MLB stars play except on TV.
Hopefully Mexico’s moderate success in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic will do wonders for the sport’s popularity, but one can only hope.
General Mexican League Information:
Regular Season Opens: Mid-March
Regular Season Closes: The end of July
Regular Season Format: Split
Number of Games: 110
League roster limits: 28, no more than 5 imports
Play-off system: Twelve teams qualify. Six First round winners and two “best losers” advance to second round. All playoff series are best-of-7. Second Round winners meet in Division Finals. Winners advance to best-of-7 series for Mexican League championship
Mexican League Teams:
Zona Norte (Northern Division)
Potros de Tijuana (Tijuana Colts)
Vaqueros de Laguna (Laguna Cowboys)
Saraperos de Saltillo (Saltillo Sarape Makers)
Rieleros de Aguascalientes (Aguascalientes Railroadmen)
Pericos de Puebla (Puebla Parrots)
Acereros de Monclova (Monclova Steelers)
Sultanes de Monterrey (Monterrey Sultans)
Dorados de Chihuahua (Chihuahua Goldenmen)
Zona Sur (Southern Division)
Olmecas de Tabasco (Tabasco Olmecas)
Leones de Yucatan (Yucatan Lions)
Petroleros de Minatitlan (Minatitlan Oilers)
Piratas de Campeche (Campeche Pirates)
Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz (Veracruz Red Eagles)
Diablos Rojos del Mexico (Mexico City Red Devils)
Tigres de Quintana Roo (Quintana Roo Tigers)
Guerreros de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Warriors)
The Tigres de Quintana Roo (Cancun) are scheduled to begin anew in 2007 after having moved from Angelopolis. Cancun has already had one team fail (The Lobstermen in 2005) so it should be interesting to see if it can support a team this time around.
The move will be the second for the Tigres since the turn of the century after playing from their 1955 inception in Mexico City, where they shared the capital city with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos. Thus, Cancun will represent the first time the Tigres, who are one of the most storied and successful baseball teams in Mexico, have ever a city all to themselves. The Tigres will be moving into a ballpark still in need of repair as Cancun continues recovering from last year’s disaster, Hurricane Wilma, which cut a wide and hard swath through the entire state of Quintana Roo before turning north to Florida, where the storm eventually petered out. Their mascot is “Chacho” the Tiger, the most well known mascot in the history of the Mexican League. The Tigres will play out of Parque Beto Avila, one of the smallest in the League with a capacity of 8,000 (after renovations). In 2005 the Lobstermen were only able to draw slightly over 2,000 per game, the worst in all of the minor leagues.
In approximately 2 weeks time, yours truly will be travelling to Cancun to check on the status of Parque Beto Avila and hopefully see the inaugural Quintana Roo Tigers participate in their Spring Training. Although my grasp of the Spanish language is weak to very weak, I have been able to discern that their season starts in early March. Currently they are training on the beach (!!!) on Playa Marlin in the hotel zone. Hopefully they will still be chillin’ on the beach and I can report back to you loyal Mop Up Duty readers on the happenings. I am sure you wait with baited breath.
I attended a Quintana Roo Tigres game following the publishing of this post and the review can be found here.
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