Although fútbol (soccer) is the recognized national sport of Mexico, the American game of baseball has a long history in the country, first introduced by American soldiers during the Mexican-American war in the mid-1800’s. A professional league was started in the 1920’s that eventually formed what has become the current Mexico League,with 16 summer league teams and 8 who play in the winter league. Many U.S. major league players have played in the winter league to keep in off-season condition, in cities from Veracruz to Tijuana.
The rest of the world first heard of Mexican baseball in 1957 when the Monterrey team won the Little League World Series on the strength of pitcher Angel Macias’ perfect game against a team from SoCal. Indeed, not a single ball was hit out of the infield. The kids became national heroes and the nation went wild with pride. The first Mexican to play in the U.S. Major Leagues was Baldomero Alamada in 1933. Since that time over 100 Mexican players have made it to the “show” with Fernando Valenzuela and Vinnie Castilla perhaps the best known.
It has just been announced that Mexico City, along with Tokyo, Toronto and San Juan will host the first round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The Mexico games will begin on March 8 – 12, 2009 featuring Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa. The last World Baseball Classic was held in 2006 when Japan beat Cuba in the championship game.
The next time you are in Mexico and you see a professional game underway, stop by and check out the action. The play is good and the setting, like a small minor league team town in the U.S., is better. Founder Abner Doubleday would be amazed at the worldwide love of the best game ever…baseball.