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A Night At The Aguilas

A champion was recently crowned in the Mexican Pacific League.

Aguilas Caps

With the Padres still in winter hibernation until February, I’ve been scratching my baseball jones on Mexican Pacific League baseball. The season just concluded yesterday with the Aguilas de Mexicali (Mexicali Eagles) emerging victorious against the Cañeros de Los Mochis (Los Mochis Sugarcanes) 4 games to 2. Mexicali will go on to represent Mexico in the upcoming Serie Del Caribe. With thanks to my coworkers and some support over Twitter (thanks @MarcusSDTX!) I subscribed to the Mexican Pacific League streaming service and decided to follow the “hometown” team in the city just across the border.

Throughout the season I was offered multiple opportunities to check out the action down south. I ventured out to check out the Aguilas once with my girlfriend and then during the championship series with some coworkers. Baseball in Mexico is a different experience outside the action on the diamond. Allow this video to help set the scene for you:

What is the LMP?

The Liga Mexicana Del Pacifico (Mexican Pacific League) is a winter professional league made up of 8 teams spread among the northwestern parts of Mexico. Each team plays 68 games against each other from October through December, with a playoff series beginning in January where the top 6 teams compete.

What is this Serie Del Caribe you mentioned earlier?

The Serie Del Caribe (Caribbean Series) is a tournament featuring the best teams from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The team that wins their respective league represents their country in the Series.

Is baseball much different in Mexico?

Fundamentally, no. In baseball parlance, the LMP is equivalent to low AAA/high AA as far as talent goes. Many minor league players make their way into the Mexican leagues to keep up their workloads in the offseason. Plenty of former Major League players still compete in the LMP. Many Aguilas players fit into these categories:

Xorge Carillo - C - Mets MiLB.
Chris (CJ) Retherford - 1B - Career MiLB.
Chris Roberson - CF - Former MLB with the Phillies.
Yuniesky Betancourt - SS - Former MLB with the Mariners et al, still plays shortstop at age 34.
Jake Sanchez - CP - A’s MiLB and Imperial Valley native.

The most unusual practice of the LMP is the Reinforcement Draft that takes place at the beginning of the playoffs. The 6 teams competing get to draft players from the 2 teams in last place. After a round is completed, another draft takes place and teams draft from the eliminated teams until the championship series. The “best loser” gets to compete against the top team to make up for the lack of a 4th team in the quarterfinal. Imagine if such a draft were a thing in Major League Baseball? Madness.

Then what is it about Mexican baseball?

It’s all in the ambiance. Games in Mexicali (and throughout the league) are parties. Music is constantly playing throughout the game and is only silenced just before a pitch is delivered. The crowd cheers the home team on with inflatable thundersticks, wooden noisemakers, and horns. You never have to leave your seat for concessions; hot wings, pizza, Mexican hot chocolate, churros, and even beer is delivered to you by the many vendors roaming the aisles. With the dollar performing strong against the peso, you can eat and drink your way through a game without spending more than $15 bucks, tops. Imagine that at an MLB game?

Estadio B’Air - Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico

I took this picture before the stadium was packed to the brim as lines to park extended blocks past the parking lot.

The visiting team is in trouble.

The Aguilas drubbed the Cañeros 6-1 in this game.

Cellphone Lights

In what has become a modern show of support, the team mascot actively asks the crowd to light up their cellphone flashlights. This is generally discouraged just behind home plate, however; game 6 was halted briefly by the umpire asking fans behind the backstop to turn off their lights.

If you find yourself looking for baseball entertainment in the offseason and don’t mind a little language barrier, you could do worse than the Mexican Pacific League (like football). Who knew you only had to look south to find some baseball fun?