Estadio Sonora, site of the 2013 Caribbean World Series *
Mexico hosts the 2013 Serie del Caribe and this year’s host city is Hermosillo, the capital of the state of Sonora. The games will be played in Nuevo Estadio Sonora, and this stadium is nuevo — it’s brand new. After its inauguration hosting the Series, the stadium will become the home field for los Naranjeros, Hermosillo’s club in the Mexican Pacific League.
A nice panoramic video of Estadio Sonora, taken during the 2013 Serie del Caribe, is out on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlLKbhpSidQ&feature=youtu.be
The 2013 Caribbean Series will feature a slight change in format. In past years, the four winter league champions (from Mexico, the Dominican, Puerto Rico and Venezuela) played a double-round-robin format. This resulted in a six-day, twelve game tournament, with the team having the most wins at the end of the sixth day being declared the winner. However, that format could lead to ties that would result in a seventh day playoff — or, a team could clinch early making the last two or three games meaningless. In an effort to extend the suspense, a seventh day is being added in 2013. The four country champs will still play the six-day double-round-robin, and then the first- and second-place teams will play for the championship on the seventh day. The new seven-day format will also more easily accomodate any additional leagues or teams that may participate in the future. The 2013 Series game schedule is here.
During the summer “off season” there was considerable discussion about adding participants to la Serie. There were rumors that a team from South Korea might participate, but little came of this. The big news, however, was that Cuba might re-enter la Serie del Caribe. A delegation from the Caribbean Confederation, the governing body of winter baseball and la Serie, traveled to Havana for meetings with Cuban authorities. After extensive discussions, the terms for Cuba’s return could not be worked out for 2013. However, the door was definitely left open for further negotiations.
Winter league play began in October in Venezuela, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. The line-up of participating clubs in these three countries remained unchanged, as follows:
Mexican Pacific League (8 teams): Aguilas de Mexicali, Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Yaquis de Cd. Obregon, Mayos de Navajoa, Caneros de los Mochis, Algodoneros de Guasave, Tomateros de Culiacan, and Venados de Mazatlan.
Venezuelan Winter League (8 teams): Leones del Caracas, Navegantes del Magallanes (Valencia), Tiburones de La Guaira, Bravos de Margarita (Porlamar), Cardenales de Lara (Barquisimeto), Caribes de Anzoategui (Puerto la Cruz), Tigres de Aragua (Maracay), and Aguilas del Zulia (Maracaibo).
Dominican Winter League (6 teams): Leones de Escogido (Santo Domingo), Tigres de Licey (Santo Domingo), Aguilas Cibaenas (Santiago), Gigantes del Cibao (San Francisco), Toros del Este (La Romana), and Estrellas de Oriente (San Pedro)
Puerto Rico began their season in early November. For the 2012-13 season the Puerto Rican League expanded to six teams. This was welcome news, as they were down to only four teams last winter as baseball continues to struggle in Puerto Rico. The concerns are still there at the gate, as most regular league games reported attendance of 1,000 or less.
Puerto Rican League (6 teams): Indios de Mayaguez, Criollos de Caguas, Leones de Ponce, Gigantes de Carolina, Cangrejeros de Santurce, and Atenienses de Manati.
The Winter League regular season runs until late December. This results in a regular season of about seventy games in Mexico, sixty games in Venezuela, about fifty games in the Dominican, and forty games in Puerto Rico. In-country league playoffs consume the month of January, with the four playoff winners then meeting at la Serie del Caribe to play for the championship of beisbol latinoamericano.
Juan and Monte together in Puerto Rico # Plaza Zaragoza in Hermosillo *
I’m especially excited about going to Hermosillo, as it’s the home of some Mexican friends; in particular mi buen amigo Juan Antonio Jasso Rodriguez. Juan and I met in Puerto Rico when Mayaguez hosted the 2011 Serie del Caribe. We have remained in close contact since then. I look forward to seeing him again, this year in his home town.
*** More to come as Monte travels to Hermosillo to attend the Caribbean Series. Look for updates from now through February 8 ***
January 21 playoffs update: The final series are either underway, or the field is set, in each of the four winter leagues. The finalists are: Mexico – Mexicali vs. Obregon; Obregon is the two-time defending champion of the LMP and the 2011 Serie del Caribe champ. Dominican Republic – Escogido vs. Aguilas; Escogido is the current defending champion of la Serie del Caribe. Puerto Rico – Mayaguez vs. Caguas; Mayaguez is the defending PR champion. Venezuela – Magallanes vs. Lara; los Navegantes de Magallanes is a storied and popular club in Venezuela.
In-country playoff finals as of end-of-play Wednesday, January 30:
Escogido swept the final Dominican Winter League series five games to none; they will defend their Serie del Caribe crown in Hermosillo.
In the Mexican Pacific League, Cuidad de Obregon swept to their third consecutive Mexican Pacific League league title – four games to none.
Caguas took the Puerto Rican championship 4-2.
Magallanes prevailed in an exciting Venezuelan final series that went the full seven games. World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval starred for los Navegantes.
Fernando Valenzuela will throw out the first pitch at the opening ceremonies on Friday February 1.
Tickets for the entire Series at Estadio Sonora are SOLD OUT !
It´s also rumored that Tommy Lasorda will throw out a first pitch, but I haven´t been able to confirm that.
Thursday, January 31:
I traveled to Hermosillo this morning. My flights from Austin to Phoenix, and on to Hermosillo were en punto — right on time. My buen amigo Juan Antonio met me at the airport and we went to his house for a home-cooked meal by Senora de Jasso. It was delicioso. I checked into my hotel, and then it was on to Travesias Mundiales, the travel agency that puts together the tours to la Serie del Caribe. The owner Thelma Acosta, daughter Paloma and the staff have been great to me and I got my gear (hat, jersey, and jacket) plus the tickets and schedule — all ahead of time.
My amigo and I then went on a driving tour of several hotels trying to get my press credentials, but were finally told to pick them up at Estadio Sonora Friday. We ended up the day at the lounge at Hotel Gandara, having drinks and watching a Cuban League game on the TV.
Friday, February 1:
Quick results: Dominican Republic 7 – Venezuela 2 , Mexico 3 – Puerto Rico 0.
The Series got off to a great start at the new Estadio Sonora. The new stadium is fantastic. There were more than 5,000 fans already in their seats for the first game, which is usually lightly attended as the host team always plays the nightcap. By the time the between-games festivities began, there were more than 16,000 fanaticos filling the place to capacity. Estadio Sonora is being touted as the finest facility in beisbol latinoamericano, and I have to agree. It’s an impressive facility.
In the first game, Venezuela jumped out to an early lead when the leadoff hitter Reggie Corona hit a first-inning home run. Venezuela made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth, but then the strong Dominican lineup began to produce. Dominicana scored one in the fourth, four in the fifth, and two in the seventh for the victory. The Dominican team is anchored by familiar names such as Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada and Fernando Tatis, among others. Ricardo Nanita led the offensive attack with three hits and two RBI. Venezuela was limited to only three hits, as the Dominicans took the opener 7-2.
The between-game festivities were extensive. Fernando Valenzuela threw out the ceremonial first pitch. We were treated to extensive dancing and music, plus a fantastic fireworks display. It was a spectacular ceremony to officially celebrate the new stadium.
By the time the ceremonies were completed, the Mexican fans were ready for action and they were not disappointed. The Mexican team showed strong pitching and defense, combined with timely hitting to prevail over Puerto Rico 3-0 in a close, exciting game. Jessie Gutierrez and Marlon Byrd provided all the RBIs and Luis Mendoza pitched six strong innings. Mendoza and five relievers combined for the shutout. The home team´s fans went home happy.
Saturday, February 2
Quick results: Dominicana 6 – Puerto Rico 2 , Venezuela 4 – Mexico 3
I started the day with breakfast hosted by my friend Juan Antonio with several of his friends and baseball aficianados, including fellow SABR member Eduardo Almada. It was a far-ranging discussion of beisbol, similar to a monthly SABR chapter meeting. I was told that Tommy Lasorda was traveling to Hermosillo along with the Dodgers Spanish voice Jamie Jarrin and Dodgers president Stan Kasten. They may be at the Caribbean Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday morning.
It was then off to Estadio Sonora for more baseball. In the first game, the powerful Dominican lineup overcame an early Puerto Rico lead and the Dominicans once again pulled away late to take the opener 6-2. The stadium filled up prior to the nightcap and was once again at (or over) capacity for Mexico´s game. Mexico took a 3-1 advantage into the eighth inning, but Venezuela rallied late and won the game on a Mario Lisson walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. My amigos mexicanos were understandably disappointed with the results.
But, it´s early in the tournament and only Puerto Rico appears to be in bad shape now.
Sunday, February 3
Yesterday I was able to get my press pass at the stadium, so I´m now the cronista oficial for SABR here at la Serie del Caribe. One of the perks was that I was able to attend the induction ceremonies this morning for the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame. There were six new honorees, with two key figures being Fernando Valenzuela and the president of the local club, Dr. Arturo Leon Lerma. It was very obvious that both of these men are much-loved in Mexico, with Dr. Leon Lerma getting the most extended applause. The ceremonies were held in the Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Sonora here in Hermosillo.
Quick results: Venezuela 3 – Puerto Rico 1 , Dominicana 6 – Mexico 5 (11 inn.)
Standings as of completion of first round:
Dominican Republic 3 wins, 0 losses
Venezuela 2 wins, 1 loss
Mexico 1 win, 2 losses
Puerto Rico 0 wins, 3 losses
In Sunday´s games — once again Puerto Rico could not generate offense and lost to Venezuela 3-1. The Puerto Ricans had nine hits but could not push runs across when they had the chance. The big blow in the game was a two-run homer by Jose Castillo in the top of the sixth.
In the nightcap, the lead changed hands several times in an exciting game. The Dominican team was leading 5-4 in the top of the ninth with Fernando Rodney on the hill to close out the game. However, after two wild pitches and timely hitting, the Mexicans had pinned a blown save on Rodney and tied the game. But for a huge baserunning mistake, the Mexicans would have taken the lead. In the event, the Dominicans won 6-5 on a two out, walk-off single by Ricardo Nanita in the bottom of the eleventh. Another heartbreaking loss for my Mexican friends.
Monday February 3
Quick results: Puerto Rico 6 – Dominicana 4 (10 inn), Mexico 2 – Venezuela 0
The standings tightened up significantly as Puerto Rico upset the Dominican team for the Criollos´ first win. Mexico rode good pitching, solid defense, and a two-run homer to a victory over Venezuela.
Tuesday February 4
Quick results: Puerto Rico 4 – Venezuela 1 , Dominicana 11 – Mexico 6
OK … I took a half day off from baseball and went to the beach at Bahia de Kino. Very scenic. Back at the ball park:
Puerto Rico continued it winning ways with a solid victory over Venezuela. This result was very positive for Mexico, as it gave them the chance to take over second place with a win in the nightcap.
However, things did not go well for the home team in the second game. Mexico led 6-4 going into the top of the eighth when the Dominican powerhouse unloaded for seven runs. Leadoff man Jose Ramirez blasted a three-run homer to break the game open. Miguel Tejada had an earlier two-run blast. The final score was 11-6 before another sold-out house.
Going into the final day of round-robin play, the standings are:
Dominicana 4 wins – 1 loss
Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico are all tied at 2 wins – 3 losses
This sets up important games Wednesday, with the top two teams then qualifying for a single-game playoff on Thursday.
Wednesday February 6
Quick results: Dominicana 4 – Venezuela 2 , Mexico 10 – Puerto Rico 0
The Dominican Republic and Mexico advance to the one-game final on Thursday evening !! The standings as of completion of the round robin phase are:
Dominicana 5 wins, 1 loss
Mexico 3 wins, 3 losses
Venezuela 2 wins, 4 losses
Puerto Rico 2 wins, 4 losses
The new format has worked out well, as all the games on Wednesday were meaningful (in the old format, Dominicana would have already clinched and the last two games would have had no meaning for the championship).
The highlight of play was the pitching of Mexico starter Luis Mendoza (K.C. Royals). Mendoza carried a no-hitter into the eight inning and struck out nine. A first-inning homer by Barbaro Canizares was all the offense that the home team needed, but they continued to score while displaying great defense behind Mendoza.
Thursday, February 8
MEXICO WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Mexico won the 2013 Serie del Caribe in an 18-inning marathon, 4-3 over Dominicana. Mexico was batting as the visiting team due to DR winning the round-robin phase of the tournament. Douglas Clark hit a solo home run in the top of the 18th and Mexico held on for the win.
Friday, February 9
After a very short night’s sleep, I had breakfast at the airport with my friend Juan Antonio. We encountered Mexico DH/1B Barbaro Canizares at the currency exchange window and Juan was able to get a picture of him with his all-star trophy. My buen amigo and I then bid a fond farewell, hoping to meet again soon.
On my flight from Hermosillo back to Phoenix, there were a number of Arizona Diamondbacks staffers and scouts on the plane. Pitcher Nelson Figueroa was sitting across the aisle from me. I talked with him briefly as we were clearing customs. He told me he would be pitching for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and attending spring training with the D-Backs before and after the WBC.
The 2013 Serie del Caribe was the most exciting of the three that I’ve been to so far. The new format of competition kept teams in contention longer, and assured a meaningful final game. The impressive new Estadio Sonora was a great venue, plus the sell-out crowds every day added to the excitement. The Mexican organizers did a great job putting on the event.
Estadio Sonora seemed to “play fair”, with more offense and more home runs generated than in either of the past two years in Mayaguez or Santo Domingo. Perhaps the dry air and “major league average” dimensions (325′ L and R, 400′ in C) helped generate more offense.
The make-up of the team lineups offered interesting contrasts. The Dominican team was “loaded” with well-known names such as Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Fernando Tatis, Julio Lugo, and Fernando Rodney among others. On the other end of the spectrum, Puerto Rico had only one player currently on a major league roster – catcher Ramon Castro – and had players from as low as single-A and independent league teams. The Mexican team had many stars from the Mexican summer league, and also sometimes fielded and all-U.S. outfield of Douglas Clark, Chris Roberson and Marlon Byrd. Mexico pitcher Luis Mendoza had an ERA of 0.00 and was 2-0 in his two starts.
One of the fun aspects of the Serie del Caribe is that everyone is so accessible. You may find one of the team managers sitting near you in the stands. Or perhaps have your picture taken with some of the well-known and colorful fanaticos. A staple of Mexican games is Enrique “KK” Estrada and his band of matraqueros, who use huge noisemakers (matracas) to rally the Mexican fans and team.
Monte, KK and his “matraca” and Juan # Mexico manager Eddie Diaz with Juan #
In summary, the Serie del Caribe is an interesting, exciting and different baseball experience for the U.S. fan. My enjoyment was greatly increased by the camaradarie of my good friend Juan Antonio Jasso Rodriguez and the increasing number of friends that I meet each year. Thank you Juan; and thanks to all for the great experience. I hope to see everyone again next year, for Serie del Caribe 2014 on Margarita Island, Venezuela. Adios y buena suerte!
Amigos at Kino Bay + and at lunch in Hermosillo #
* Pictures of Estadio Sonora and Hermosillo, as well as the Serie del Caribe – Hermosillo logo, are courtesy of the official 2013 Serie del Caribe web site at www.seriedelcaribe2013.com.mx
# Pictures are courtesy of Ing. Juan Antonio Jasso Rodriguez
+ Picture is courtesy of Jose Ciro Soto Hernandez