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MEX PAC SEASON BEGINS; 80K ATTEND TEN OPENERS
The Mexican Pacific League lifted the lid off the 2021-22 season last week to improved overall attendance at its traditional two-game, home-and-away opening series. Last winter's turnouts were severely curtailed fan turnout across the loop due to severe protocol restrictions due to the Wuhan virus outbreak, which had earlier caused the cancellation of the Mexican League's 2020 campaign.
Things are less tight than a year ago and it showed at the turnstiles, as a combined 80,177 aficionados attended the ten LMP openers over three days between Tuesday and Thursday. The largest crowd was in Mexicali, where 12,867 were in the stands at Estadio Aguilas to watch a 5-1 win over Hermosillo on Thursday. One night earlier, there were 11,289 onlookers at Estadio Monterrey to witness an 8-5 Sultanes loss to visiting Jalisco. The smallest home opener gathering was in Guasave, where just 3,325 fans got their money's worth last Wednesday when the Algodoneros topped Los Mochis, 4-2, in eleven innings at Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon.
Let's take a look at all ten Mex Pac home openers:
TUESDAY, October 5
Agustin Murillo went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs to lead the hometown Jalisco Charros past Monterrey, 4-2, as 6,712 were on hand at Estadio Charros in Guadalajara. After teasing the locals over the past two winters about perhaps joining the Charros, former MLB All-Star Roberto Osuna made his debut by tossing a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.
Hermosillo's Juan Pablo Oramas had a great first start of the winterball season, tossing six innings of scoreless ball with seven strikeouts in the Naranjeros' 8-0 shutout over Mexicali. Nicolas Torres slammed a pair of homers and drove in three runs and Jose Cardona went 4-for-5 with a solo blast while 8,731 watched at Hermosillo's Estadio Sonora.
Culiacan took a 7-6 thriller in ten innings over Mazatlan in front of 9,529 at Estadio Tomateros. Emmanuel Avila got on board in the bottom of the tenth after being hit by a pitch, moved to second on Alfredo Hurtado's bunt and then beat Leo German's throw from right on a Mateo Gil sacrifice fly for the game-winner. Jesus Fabela homered twice for Culiacan.
WEDNESDAY, October 6
Jalisco made it two wins in as many nights, this time sending 11,289 at Estadio Monterrey home disappointed with an 8-5 triumph over the Sultanes. Japhet Amador and former Monterrey outfielder Felix Perez each belted two-run homers for the winners while slugger Danny Ortiz (42 longballs for Puebla in 2019) went deep for the Sultanes.
It took eleven innings, but Guasave finally bested visiting Los Mochis, 4-2, as 3,325 watched at Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon. Jhoan Urena walked before Jesse Castillo slammed a walkoff homer off Caneros reliever Daysbel Hernandez to end it. Urena socked a roundtripper for the Algodoneros while Josuan Hernandez hit a two-run bomb for Los Mochis.
Ricardo Valenzuela's two-run triple in the bottom of the seventh broke a 2-2 tie as Mazatlan went on to trip Culiacan, 4-2, with 5,447 at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal. Mitch Lively pitched six frames of two-run ball and eight Venados batters had a hit in a game where a brawl among fans from both teams occurred at the concession stands under the grandstand.
Luis Escobar scattered four hits over five innings and contributed eight strikeouts to combine with three relievers on a 2-0 shutout for visiting Obregon at Navojoa's Estadio Manuel “Ciclon” Echeverria as 6,496 fans watched. Reynaldo Rodriguez belted a solo homer in the top of the first and Alonzo Harris had an RBI single in the second for the Yaquis.
Friday, October 8
Jesse Castillo struck again for Guasave, this time with a three-run homer in the top of the first off Los Mochis starter Carlos Viera as the Algodoneros went on to a 7-2 road win with 6,860 witnesses at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada. Castillo and Alejandro Ortiz each had three hits for the Cottoneers; Isaac Rodriguez and Jorge Rivera had RBI singles for the Caneros.
Mexicali and Hermosillo were tied at 2-2 until Daniel Castro rocked a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh as the Aguilas went on to a 5-2 victory. A crowd of 12,867 at Estadio Aguilas saw Enrique Burgos and Jake Sanchez toss scoreless innings to seal with win for the Eagles. Addison Russell doubled and scored on Nic Torres' single for Hermosillo.
At home in front of 8,921 observers at Estadio Yaquis, Obregon made it two shutouts in a row with a 5-0 blanking of Navojoa. Hector Velazquez combined with three relievers to extend the Mayos' season-opening scoreless streak to 18 entradas. Carlos Sepulveda homered and Kristian Delgado singled, doubled and had two RBIs for the winners.
The Mayos' streak of futility extended another four innings to 22 before scoring their first run of the season in the fifth frame of a game in Mazatlan they ended up winning, 6-2, by scoring four times in the top of the ninth (including Tirso Ornelas' two-run double) and then getting a 1-2-3 entrada from Carlos Bustamante to save their first triumph.
LMB REBOOTS MEXICAN WINTER LEAGUE
After an absence of four seasons, the Mexican Winter League is making a return in 2021, albeit with a different look than in the past. This time, the LIM (Liga Invernal Mexicana) will feature two four-team divisions playing six weeks each between mid-October and late November with no crossover contests, followed by division championship series between the top two regular season finishers.
As before, the LIM will serve as a Class AA affiliate circuit for the Mexican League, who announced the reformation of the loop early this month. LMB president Horacio de la Vega was on hand, as was Mexican League sports director Gabriel Medina. The LIM will feature young players on LMB contracts who are not playing in the Mexican Pacific League or any other winterball league.
The Mexican Winter League's North Division will include the Monclova Acereros, Monterrey Sultanes, Saltillo Saraperos and Union Laguna Algodoneros of Torreon while the South Division will be comprised of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, Oaxaca Guerreros, Puebla Pericos and a combined team of Veracruz Aguilas and Yucatan Leones prospects.
All games will be played in the same ballparks used during the LMB season between April and September, although the Veracruz venue for the Aguilas-Leones squad hadn't been finalized when the press conference was held. The Aguilas Mexican League team plays home games at Estadio Beto Avila.
The LIM North regular season (with games played on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays) will run 28 games per team from Tuesday, October 12 through November 28, followed by a best-3-of-5 championship series between the top two teams from November 30 through December 4, if needed.
The LIM South schedule has each team playing 30 games between Tuesday, October 19 through November 21, followed by a best-4-of-7 championship series beginning November 23. A Mexican Winter League title series between the two division champions is slated for early December.
All teams will be made up of 28 players, with an age limit of 26 for 25 players and no limitations on three players per club. Tie games will extend for a tenth inning before they're considered completed.
An earlier version of the LIM operated from 2015 through 2017, with teams in places like Celaya, Salamanca, Guanajuato and Moroleon as well as LMB cities such as Puebla, Aguascalientes, Oaxaca and Mexico City. The Mexico City Diablos Rojos won all three pennants under two managers (Jose Luis Sandoval in 2015-16, Victor Bojorquez in 2016-17 and 2017) before the league closed due to financial difficulties.
MEX PAC ROAD TRIP: Hermosillo, Sonora
From our second road trip stop in Mexicali, we'll take Highway 2 eastbound until heading south on Highway 150 for a total drive of 439 miles (or eight hours) to Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora and a city of 812,239 residents, Mexico's 16th-largest. Hermosillo is in a rather unique setting, a landlocked desert city surrounded by various rock formations and crowned in its center by a tall outcrop lit at night by several radio towers.
Besides serving as a political center, Hermosillo is very much an agriculture-oriented city, especially cattle ranching. It is also an important place for industry, with car-making one of the leading local occupations. Many early figures of the revolutions in the early 20th century called Hermosillo home, including General Alvaro Obregon, Plutarco Elias Calles and Abelardo Rodriguez. However, the relatively recent boom over the past sixty years has all but obliterated anything that may have survived from the old days.
While Hermosillo is very spread out and not the best place for visitors who like to walk around, there are some interesting things on hand for tourists to check out. The Plaza Zaragosa is very pleasant with many trees and a lacy white bandstand, while on its edge sits a 19th century cathedral featuring twin towers and a dome with crosses atop each. A mostly neo-classical structure, the cathedral took over a century to build.
Also nearby is the similar Government Palace, most notable for its courtyard murals painted by three artists in the 1980’s. Another interesting spot is the Museo de Sonora, a beautifully-restored former prison (which maintains vestiges of its past life) now serving a museum. South of town is the Centro Ecological de Sonora, a zoo and botanical garden.
Hermosillo is home to the Mexican Pacific League’s Naranjeros, or “Orange Growers.” The Naranjeros are considered one of the Mex Pac’s flagship franchises, capable of tracing their roots to 1944 and raking in a total of 20 pennants in three leagues, including 16 LMP championships.
Their last flag was won in 2013-14 under manager Matias Carrillo, who took the team to their second Caribbean Series title (the first was in 1976 with Ben “Cananea” Reyes at the helm). Mexican baseball legend Hector Espino spent 24 winters playing in Hermosillo. The right-handed batting Espino won 13 batting titles and seven home run crowns in the Mex Pac and still holds most LMP career hitting records.
The Naranjeros play their home games at 16,000-seat Estadio Sonora, which was opened on February 1, 2013 and is still considered one of Mexico's top ballparks eight years later, having won two international awards for architecture. Estadio Sonora hosted the Caribbean Series upon its opening and has been the scene of MLB exhibition games between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies in 2015 as well as the WBSC U-23 Baseball Gold Cup last month.