With the Tucson Padres packing up and moving to El Paso next season, the city’s baseball fans will need something to fill the void.
A going-away party, if you will.
Enter the third annual Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta, to be held at Kino Stadium starting today.
This is not your average day at the ballpark.
This is baseball meets béisbol.
Mike Feder, Tucson Padres general manager and Mexican Baseball Fiesta organizer, should know: He’s been doing this thing for a while.
“I’ve run clubs for 30 years — this is nontraditional,” he said. “It’s not the way we always do things. If you’ve got music going when the pitcher’s going, no one’s giving you the signal to the neck to cut it off. This is an adrenaline rush, it’s nonstop. If you’re used to baseball being a sedate game, don’t come. That’s not what this is about.”
But don’t mistake a party atmosphere with bad ball.
Kino Stadium will welcome three of the premier teams of the Mexican Pacific League — Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Tomateros de Culiacán and Yaquis de Obregón. Obregón has won two of the last three titles in the Caribbean Series, including the 2013 championship.
“The big leagues are the big leagues, but the Caribbean Series, and now the Mexican Pacific League is big — I consider it to be the second-best baseball after the Dominican Republic,” said Obregón manager Eddie Diaz, a scout with the Tampa Bay Rays. “When you see Mexican baseball in this era, it’s not like the ’70s. We’re on the map right now.”
Top prospects from both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals organizations will also participate, though Feder is quick to remind that their MPL counterparts are just as talented and competitive.
“It’s a global game, and from my standpoint, I’d be foolish to not acknowledge the popularity of the game on a worldwide basis,” Feder said. “That was proven by the quality of play in the World Baseball Classic. For us, to be able to bring that product in the fall, when there’s no baseball going on — well, except TV, something called the playoffs and World Series — that’s exciting for me.”
Included among those on the Dodgers roster are 2013 first-round pick Chris Anderson (18th overall), who dominated Single-A batters with a 1.96 ERA in 12 games, and Zach Bird. The Royals will field a roster that includes 2013 No. 8 pick Hunter Dozier and 2011 No. 5 pick Bubba Starling, who was rated the 35th-best prospect by Baseball America before the 2013 season.
“You’ll have a good mix, some of the prospects and pros,” Diaz said. “It’s going to be a good mixture of big- leaguers, Double-A players, Triple-A players. They’re going to put on a show.”
The Royals prospects will take on Obregón tonight at 7 to kick things off, but the premier matchup will be the battle between Hermosillo and Obregón on Saturday night, following the Dodgers’ contest against Culiacán.
As Feder explains, bringing the Hermosillo and Obregón rivalry to Tucson is like bringing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox — only Tucsonans will recognize the jerseys a little better.
“That’s what it means when you bring it here,” Feder said. “It’s bringing their teams to them. The teams they grew up with.”
Added Diaz: “It’s interesting for all of us; in my case, Tucson brought me a lot of memories. I was part of the minor leagues way back then. I just passed by Spanish Trail, and that’s familiar to me. These are teams with heritage that I know.”
But again, baseball is not the only focus here.
The music will blast, from bands such as Diluvio and La Membrillera, and the beer will flow and the mascots, Hermosillo’s Beto Coyote and Obregón’s Chaco — “The San Diego Chicken and Phillie Fanatic of the Mexican Pacific League,” Feder said — will dance, dance, dance.
“I’m not selling baseball here,” said Feder of the Mexican Baseball Fiesta, which concludes a four-city run that included Nogales, Agua Prieta and Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
“Everything I’m doing with this is promotion and fun and music.”