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Monday, September 14, 2020
NEW STADIUM ON DRAWING BOARD FOR YUCATAN
A new, privately-financed, solar-powered multipurpose stadium is being planned for Yucatan with a targeted opening of Spring in 2023. Estadio Sostenible (“Sustainable Stadium”) is projected to seat 23,000 for baseball's Yucatan Leones of the Mexican League and 27,000 for soccer's Yucatan Venados FC of the Liga Expansion MX, a new semipro circuit that hopes to open this fall as a replacement for the financally-plagued Liga Ascenco (which had been Mexico's second-tier soccer league until folding last winter). Concerts will hold 32,000 attendees. Stands will be portable to allow configurations for various events.
The site of the state-of-the-art facility has not been determined, although the Merida area (which currently serves as home for both the Leones and Venados FC) is all but certain. A related announcement is expected by the end of 2020. Yucatan governor Maurico Vila Dosal presided over last Wednesday's press conference revealing the project and said, “We are creating a world-class project which will generate more than four thousand jobs during its construction phase. When it begins to operate, it will generate more than a thousand permanent jobs.”
According to a Leones press release, Estadio Sostenible Yucatan will be “the best stadium in Mexico,” with a shopping center, hotel, restaurants and museum, all inspired by the Mayan culture. The estimated cost will be 2.2 billion pesos, or about US$104 million. The company reportedly making the investment will be New York-based Juego de Pelota, which was represented at the press conference by founder Cesar Octavio Esparza Portillo and operations director Jose Antonio Tellez.
Leones co-owner Erick Arellano said, “This is great news for lovers of baseball and any sport, it is something we were looking for since we took command of the team, now we can be satisfied that Yucatan will have a stadium at the height of its fans. With this, we will seek to bring in Major League Baseball games since we will have one of the best stadiums in the world.”
Although Merida is considered one of the LMB's most stable franchise sites, it wasn't always that way. The original Leones entered the Liga in 1954 and won their first pennant in 1957, but only lasted through 1958 before the team moved to Veracruz the next season. Yucatan's second Mexican League team lasted five seasons between 1970 and 1974 before that version of the Leones shifted west to Villahermosa in 1975 and became the Tabasco Olmecas. The current iteration of the Yucatan Leones returned in 1979 and have played continuously since, winning six LMB South championships and three Serie del Rey titles.
The team's current home stadium, the 14,917-seat Parque Kukulcan, was opened in 1982 and is considered one of the nicest ballparks in the LMB as Yucatan annually ranks at or near the top in attendance. In 2019, the Leones drew 520,350 fans to 60 home games for an average of 8,673, ranking third in the Liga (and all minor league baseball) behind only Tijuana and Monterrey.
TWO PROSPECT LEAGUERS SIGN CONTRACTS WITH MLB TEAMS
Under the auspices of the federal ProBeis agency, the Prospect League is wrapping up its second short season in Guadalajara as a showcase tournament for many of the country's top young ballplayers. Participants are hoping the event, which is attended by scouts from most Major League organizations and several American colleges, leads to either a contract with a Major League or Mexican League team or a scholarship offer from north of the border. Two such players had their dreams realized last week.
Team Cantu pitcher Jose Reyes, a Mexicali native in his second summer in the Prospect League, has signed a contract with the San Diego Padres. Reyes, who turned 18 last month, is a 6'2” righthander who tips the scales at 190 pounds and can reach 89-92 MPH on the radar gun and, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, also includes a slider and change in his repertoire.
The AlBat.com website quotes Padres scout Emmanuel Rangel as saying about Reyes, “We've followed him for a long time and we like the way he works on the mound. His speed is very good, his breaking pitches have a very good rotation and we believe that with his discipline, he can go a long way.” Reyes, who has left Guadalajara to join his hometown Aguilas in training camp, says, “Another of my dreams is coming true. One of them was to belong to the Mexicali Aguilas and now I am fulfilled by belonging to a Major League organization.”
The other Prospect Leaguer to ink a deal is Team Castro outfielder Alejandro “Alex” Osuna, brother of Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna. The younger Osuna, a Los Mochis product, has come to terms with the Texas Rangers.
Osuna ranked second among the Prospect League batting leaders this summer, his first in the loop, batting .467 with 13 RBIs over his first 12 games. Along with his twin brother Pedro, Alex signed with the LMB Monclova Acereros on February 7 of last year as part of older brother Roberto's 24th birthday celebration. The winterball rights to all three Osunas are held by the Mex Pac's Jalisco Charros, who are hosting the Prospect League this year.
Alex Osuna is no stranger to American baseball. The 5'9” 17-year-old has received a “9” grade from the Perfect Game organization, which rates young players from across the continent. His left arm is strong for an outfielder, with his throws clocked as high as 86 MPH. Not surprisingly, he's done some pitching. While not especially tall, Osuna has a compact build and is considered a very good line-drive batter with some power to right field.
With two games remaining on the 15-game Prospect League schedule, Team Juan Gabriel Castro was running away with the regular season crown with a record of 9-4-0, well ahead of Team Jorge Cantu at 5-6-2. Team Joakim Soria (4-5-4) was in third while Team Oliver Perez was fourth at 3-6-4. A pair of three-game semifinal series will run Tuesday through Thursday this week, followed a three-game championship set Friday through Sunday.
RAMOS BREAKS KBO SEASON HOMER RECORD FOR MEXICANOS
When LG Twins slugger Roberto Ramos crashed a home run against the Lotte Giants early last week, it was his 31st of the Korea Baseball Organization season, setting a single-year KBO record for Mexican-born players. The old record was held by former MLB outfielder Karim Garcia, who socked 30 roundtrippers for the same Lotte Giants in 2008.
The Twins were trailing, 10-1, when Ramos stepped up to the plate in the top of the third inning on September 7 in Busan. Facing Giants starter Park See-Woong with a man on base, Ramos took one pitch for a ball before launching a Park delivery for a high-arcing drive over the wall in right-center field that landed on an exit to a tunnel for his record-breaking longball. The Twins ended up losing the contest, 12-6.
After a red-hot start to his first season in Asia in which he was leading the KBO with 13 homers while sitting in third place in both batting average (.391) and runs batted in (31), Ramos missed a few games in June with back and ankle pain. While he's regained his home run stroke and his 70 RBIs lead the team, his average has dropped to .250 since returning to the Twins lineup. The team dropped a pair of games to the Samsung Lions over the weekend to fall to 59-45-3 for the season, but are still in a good position to earn a playoff berth in third place just three games behind the co-leading NC Dinos and Kiwoom Heroes.
Born and raised in Hermosillo, the 25-year-old Ramos moved to San Fernando, California prior to his junior year of high school and hit .429 with 11 homers as a senior. Bypassed in the 2013 draft, he enrolled in College of the Canyons in nearby Santa Clarita and played one season of Juco ball, batting .317 with seven homers for the Cougars in 2014. That was enough for Colorado to draft Ramos in the 16th round that June.
The 6'3” first baseman-outfielder went on to spend six seasons in the Rockies system, batting .292 and belting 98 homers over 496 games. Ramos had a banner 2019 for AAA Albuquerque, hitting .309 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs in 127 contests, earning midseason PCL All-Star honors. Despite his impressive numbers and a lack of power at first base with the parent club, the Rockies traded his rights in January to the LG Twins, who then signed him to a reported one-year, $500,000 contract (according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency).
Ramos is one of three imports on the Twins roster, joining former Padres pitcher Casey Kelly and ex-Orioles hurler Tyler Wilson.