It was America’s national pastime with a Mexican twist in San Luis. Fans came out to Joe Orduño Park to see Los Cañeros of Los Mochis, a popular baseball team from the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
In their honor, the crowd sang the Mexican National Anthem. Instead of peanuts and Cracker Jacks, vendors sold tacos and Mexican candies. Latin music played between pitches.
Like the Major League Baseball Spring Training games held in the Phoenix area, these exhibition games give fans a chance to see professional players in more intimate venues.
The Cañeros, who play in the Mexican Pacific League, played a team of prospects from the Fiesta Winter League just weeks before the Mexican league regular season began. The Cañeros won 12-2. A home run derby was held before the game.
Fan Mario Fernandez Valdez wore his Cañeros gear.
“It's a great opportunity for the people that come," Fernandez said. "There are a lot of people from Sinaloa in San Luis, Sonora. It's an opportunity to come and see the team."
The Cañeros game was held on a Thursday night with a smaller than usual crowd. The town has hosted other Mexican teams for preseason games including the Naranjeros, or Orangemen, of Hermosillo and the Aguilas, or Eagles, of Mexicali. Those previous games were held on weekends with larger crowds.
This game in San Luis drew true baseball fans. Little league baseball and softball teams attended in their uniforms and fans posed for photos with the Cañeros mascot, a bird named Pepe Cañas.
Ivan Juarez is a manager with the San Luis 100 All Star softball team.
“It’s a great atmosphere," Juarez said. "There are a lot of kids here that are loving the sport. I have my little girls here that are loving the sport. They’re getting signatures and they’re enjoying the night. It’s a great thing San Luis is doing for the community.”
The Cañeros also played preseason games in Tucson, Mesa and Douglas. Their regular season began in mid October. It’s a winter season that plays though January.
The preseason roster included Everth Cabrera, a former All-Star for the San Diego Padres who also played with the Baltimore Orioles.
Bruce Baskin writes a blog called Baseball Mexico from his home in Washington state. Baskin said Mexican baseball is popular in the Southwest because of the many Latino fans of the sport.
“I think there’s a lot of potential for growth in Mexican baseball in the American Southwest just because of the proximity and because there’s such a large Hispanic population in that region," Baskin said. "So it just makes sense for the leagues to do some marketing to draw some fans from north of the border.”
San Luis Rio Colorado has a team, the Algodoneros, or Cottonmen, who play from April through July. The closest team you can see these days is the Aguilas in Mexicali. Their next home series is December 28-30 against Los Mochis.
By comparison, Major League Baseball starts with Spring Training in Arizona in March and the season goes from April through late October.