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Major League Baseball History Made... In Mexico City?
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With the advent of the Mexican League, baseball has been a professional sport in Mexico since the mid-1920s. Today, the Mexican League consists of 18 teams from around Mexico, from the Toros de Tijuana to the Guerreros de Oaxaca. And while baseball in Mexico is not nearly as popular as soccer, it is currently enjoying a bit of a moment. Recently, Mexico came in third place in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, losing to Japan in a bottom of the ninth heartbreaker (Japan would go on to defeat the U.S.A. and win the Classic). And earlier in the series, Mexico soundly defeated the U.S. team, with a score of 11-5. Mexico's third place finish in the Classic is their best finish yet, and it has reminded Mexico that their legacy of producing world-class baseball players is alive and well.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. and Canada, Major League Baseball (MLB) continues to be the predominant exemplar of the sport. MLB is where the world's best players want to be, and the major league is populated with players from all over the world. Acknowledging the world-wide appeal of baseball, and in service of building awareness of the sport and MLB, major league teams occasionally play games in other countries. This past weekend (April 29 & 30, 2023), for the first time ever, regular season games were played in Mexico City1.
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In front of a sellout crowd in Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú, Mexico City's baseball stadium (and home to Mexico City's Mexican League team, the Diablos Rojos del México), the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants squared off for a 2-game weekend series. This was a big moment for both teams and for the city itself, and Mexico City proved to be a gracious - and interesting - host. Statues of various Padres and Giants players started springing up all over the city, in order to help bring attention to this event. Both teams donned special uniforms. And the great Lucha Libre wrestler Rey Mysterio gifted each San Diego Padres player a special Lucha Libre mask to commemorate the games.
Saturday's game turned out to be a thrilling slugfest up in the thin air of that massive city. Mexico City sits at an elevation of 7,350 feet (2,250 meters), making it the highest elevation ever for a Major League game (Mexico City's stadium sits nearly a mile higher than the highest MLB field, which is Denver's Coors Field). Thin air means less wind resistance which means baseballs fly faster and further. The Padres and the Giants combined for 11 home runs (2 shy of a major league record) on Saturday - the Padres having 6 homers by 5 batters. However, one major league record was set: with Padres shortstop Xander Bogaerts 4th inning home run in Mexico, Bogaerts became the first Major League player to hit a home run in four different countries - the others being the United States, Canada, and England. The Padres ended up winning this wild game, with 16 runs to the Giants' 11.
After the last inning, fans stuck around for the inevitable post game fireworks display. This is Mexico, after all.
Sunday's game was less dramatic - a combined 4 home runs, but the Padres rallied from a 1 run deficit in the bottom of the 8th, scoring 3 runs in that inning and winning the game 6-4.
Having been born and raised in San Diego, the Padres are my team. And although I left San Diego many years ago, I've never adopted any other team - it's always been the Padres, through thick and thin (yes, mostly thin). I can’t overstate how exciting and fulfilling it is for me to see my favorite sports team playing in the vibrant capital of this country that I love. What a wonderful world we live in.
Major League games have been played in Mexico before, in the northern city of Monterrey.