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Monday, November 29, 2021
LAGUNA MANAGER MALAVE, 58, COMMITS SUICIDE
A family member has confirmed that Union Laguna Algodoneros manager Omar Malave is dead of suicide at age 58. Daughter Omarling Malave took to Twitter to verify that her father had taken his own life last Monday at his Dunedin, Florida home: “For everyone who wants to know what happened. He killed himself. This is the truth that I will not hold back because mental health is very important. It can happen to anyone! Even someone like Omar Malavé. Never in a million years would I think my dad would do this, but he did.”
The daughter of the Venezuela-born manager deeply regretted that her children, Omar’s grandchildren, will not be able to enjoy those baseball anecdotes that he was able to tell, this due to his great career as a professional. “Mental health is still such a taboo subject,” Omarling tweeted, “Especially in men. They are taught to ignore their feelings and be strong, but the reality is that men have feelings and emotions too. Suicide comes in all ages, sexes and sizes.“
In his first season as skipper of the Torreon club, Malave led the Cottoneers to an unexpected Mexican League playoff berth this summer with a 31-33 record after the team had been predicted by many to finish last in the nine-team North Division. He played nine seasons in the Toronto minor league system and managed Blue Jays farm teams after retiring as a player. Dunedin is the Jays’ longtime spring training home.
The Algodoneros team website had no mention of Malave’s passing one week after his suicide and still listed him as their manager. Two other Mexican League franchises announced managerial changes last week.
The Dos Laredos Tecolotes named Mark Weidemaier as manager for 2022. Weidemaier will assume the helm from interim pilot Rafael Rijo, who took over the Owls after first-year manager Pablo Ortega was fired during a 2021 campaign which saw the club finish 30-36 for an eighth-place finish in the LMB North.
A baseball lifer who served as an assistant coach at Ohio State University while still a student at the University of North Carolina, Weidemaier served under manager
Matt Williams in Washington between 2014 and 2015 and also worked for Williams in Korea this year as bench coach for the KIA Tigers. Weidemaier has twice managed in the LMB. He was bench boss for Union Laguna in 1988 and for Veracruz in 2016, laboring for Dos Laredos owner Jose Antonio Mansur in the port city before the team was moved to the border cities.
Weidemaier joins the Tecos at a time when the team is once again embroiled in controversy over their status in Laredo, Texas. The Tecos are doing battle with STX Venue Management owner Danny Lopez over control of the ballpark during the team’s home games, stating that Lopez “has created an environment in which the team can’t operate properly or efficiently,” according to the Laredo Morning Times. The Tecos ended up splitting home games between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo last season after similar concerns led them to consider farming home games out to other Texas border cities.
Finally, the Durango Generales have named former major league infielder Alvaro Espinoza as their new manager. Espinoza appeared in 12 MLB seasons and was a starting shortstop for the Yankees between 1989 and 1991 as well as the Cleveland Indians in 1993. He replaces another former big league shortstop, longtime LMB skipper Felix Fermin, in Durango after the Generales finished last in the LMB North with a 20-45 record to tie Oaxaca for the worst record in the Liga’s truncated 2021 season.
This will be Espinoza’s first time managing a Mexican team but the Valencia, Venezuela native has led the Anzoategui Caribes in the Liga Venezolana, where he played winterball for over a decade and batted .368 in three Caribbean Series (he was named to the CS Hall of Fame in 2014). He’s also managed and coached in the Expos, Dodgers, Pirates and Giants organization since 1998 and (like Weidemaier) coached in the Korea Baseball Organization last summer with the Kiwoom Heroes.
CULIACAN P RAMIREZ HOSPITALIZED AFTER LINER BEANING
J.C. Ramirez had a scary evening last week after the Culiacan pitcher was drilled on the head by a line drive off the bat of Hermosillo’s Addison Russell during a Mexican Pacific League game last Sunday at Estadio Sonora in Hermosillo. The comebacker beaning occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Tomateros manager Benji Gil sent Ramirez in with two out to pitch to the former Cubs All-Star. Russell, who drove in Luis Alfonso Cruz and ended up at third base with what in effect was an infield triple, was visibly upset and held his own head in his hands as he came into third. The
Tomateros eventually won the contest, 4-3.
Ramirez was taken to a local hospital for observation prior to being released with a clean bill of health last Wednesday. The 33-year-old Nicaraguan righty has been pitching out of the bullpen for Culiacan and it’s been a struggle. After six appearances, Ramirez has an 0-2 record with a 6.35 ERA for the defending champions. He was 4-2 and 1.74 over six starts for the Tomateros last winter before splitting last summer between Taiwan’s Fubon Guardians (4-5 and 3.43 in nine starts for the CPBL club) and the Mexico City Diablos Rojos (2-0 and 3.43 in three starts for the LMB flagship franchise).
The Mex Pac’s second-half standings are still bunched up after two weeks. Only four games separated the ten teams after 14 contests each. Mexicali has gone 9-5 for new manager Gil Velazquez and is clinging to a one-game lead over Guasave, Mazatlan and first-half champion Navojoa (all 8-6) while Hermosillo and Obregon are tied for fifth at 7-7, two games out of first. Even the moribund Los Mochis Caneros are showing signs of life after sweeping a Saturday doubleheader against Monterrey, 4-1 and 2-0, at home in Estadio Manuel “Ciclon” Echeverria.
Behind the strong pitching of Carlos Viera (6 innings, 1 run in the opener) and Fabian Cota (7 shutouts innings in the nightcap), the Caneros raised their second-half record to 5-9, just a half-game behind 5-8 Jalisco. Although Los Mochis is still in last place on the heels of a disastrous first half in which they trailed the other nine teams with a 9-23 record, the Canegrowers are showing enough of a pulse to at least crack the double-digit mark in wins under new manager Luis Carlos Rivera over the second stanza.
Navojoa’s Tirso Ornelas has taken clear ownership of the Mex Pac batting race with a .383 average, thirty points ahead of teammate Samar Leyva’s .353 mark. Christian Villanueva of Jalisco has a .369 average but the Guadalajara native has spent most of November on the Charros’ reserve list and has appeared in just 24 games. Another Jalisco player, Dariel Alvarez, is batting .412 with three homers in 13 games since returning from Japan.
Navojoa first baseman Kyle Martin socked his 11th homer last week and leads in that category, ahead of Monterrey’s Anthony Giansanti (8) and five more players with seven longballs each. Jalisco’s Julian Ornelas (Tirso’s brother) leads with 34 RBIs, one more than Charros’ teammate Felix Perez and the 32 of Joey Meneses of Culiacan. Tomateros outfielder Dairon Blanco failed to steal a base last week but his 20 swipes
still give him a comfortable lead over Obregon’s Alonzo Harris (14) and Ramon Rios of Mazatlan (13).
There are now six LMP pitchers with five wins each to tie for the league lead: Elian Leyva (Hermosillo), Carlos De Leon and Raul Carrillo (both Navojoa) plus Hector Velazquez and Demetrio Gutierrez (both Obregon). Leyva continues to top the list of qualifiers for the ERA title at 1.17, ahead of Velazquez (1.94) and another Obregon hurler, Arturo Lopez (2.11). Lopez’ 40 strikeouts are third on the list behind Octavio Acosta of Navojoa (45) and Obregon’s Luis Escobar (43). With such great ERA and K numbers, Lopez deserves a better record than 1-2 after eight starts. Mexicali’s Jake Sanchez picked up a pair of saves last week to raise his season total to 16; Carlos Bustamante of Navojoa and Hermosillo’s Fernando Salas are tied for second with 11 saves each.
MEX PAC ROAD TRIP (Stop #9): Mazatlan, Sinaloa
The ninth of ten stops on our virtual tour of Mexican Pacific League cities, Mazatlan, Sinaloa is a relatively long 135-mile jaunt south from Culiacan on Highway 150, a driving trip that runs about two-and-a-half hours mostly along the Gulf of California coast.
Named after a native word for "place of the Deer," Mazatlan is the largest Pacific Coast seaport between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal, in which tourism gradually developed as an adjunct to its success as the "Shrimp Capital of the World." Mazatlan’s thriving seafood industry lessens the need for tourist dollars that are the sole economic driver of other cities on Mexico’s west coast like Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Ixtapa (although it is more tourist-driven than any other LMP franchise site).
Mazatlan enjoys year-round sunshine and a mostly temperate climate, although it can get hot and humid during the summer. While the other seven LMP cities get frying-pan hot during the summer and even the winter, Mazatlan sits across from the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, which blocks ocean breezes from reaching places like Obregon, Culiacan and Hermosillo. Mazatlan has miles of Pacific beaches lined by a seawall promenade called the Malecon. Visitors indulge in sports fishing, golf, bicycling, tennis and water sports.
There’s an area in north Mazatlan called the Zona Dorado, or “Gold Zone,” where Americans and Candians generally congregate. The Zona Dorado bears as much
resemblance to the “real” Mexico as Las Vegas bears to the “real” Mexico and if a visitor to Mazatlan doesn’t venture outside the veritable tourist enclave, they'll miss the essence of the city.
While the downtown core can’t truly be called “Old Mexico” in style because coastal cities were mostly fishing villages until the 20th century, Mazatlan is a lively place with many plazas in which Spanish architecture brackets the goings-on. It’s a lot less expensive than the Zona Dorado, too, and visitors have a much greater opportunity to experience the natural warmth and kindness of the Mexican people. English is spoken in Mazatlan more than any other city in the LMP except perhaps Mexicali on the California border.
The Mazatlan Venados have historically been one of the strongest franchises in the Mexican Pacific League. The Venados (or "Deer") have won nine pennants in the modern LMP, plus another five flags in the old winter Pacific Coast League in the 1940’s and 50’s, and Caribbean Series titles in 2005 and 2016.
Venados home games are played at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, which opened in 1962 and was expanded to 12,000 seats in 2000 before a total renovation resulted in a state-of-the-art facility with 16,000 permanent seats in 2018. It has hosted six Caribbean Series, including the 2005 tournament won by the Venados and the most recent Serie del Caribe last February.