Yankees' visit to Mexico is a dream come true for many Mexican baseball fans

Sat, Mar 23, 2024
MLB News (AP)

Yankees' visit to Mexico is a dream come true for many Mexican baseball fans

MEXICO CITY (AP) - For the New York Yankees, their first trip south of the border in more than 50 years probably means nothing beyond two exhibition games, but for many Mexican fans and the host team, Diablos Rojos, the visit of the most popular team in the country is a dream come true.

The Yankees played in Mexico in 1968 when they split the two-game exhibition series in the extinct Parque Delta.

Management from the Diablos Rojos said they hoped to get a chance to do it again after that, but it wasn't until Omar Minaya was hired as senior adviser for baseball operations with the Yankees that the games became a reality.

"Alfredo (Harp Helu, the Diablos owner) is close friends with Omar Minaya and that propelled everything," said Othon Diaz, the team's president. "We let them know how much it would mean for us to have them here again and they agreed."

According to the Major League Baseball office in Mexico, the Yankees are the most popular team in Mexico, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox.

Diaz said hosting a MLB regular-season series between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants helped their chances because the Yankees' front office was aware that Mexico City and the Diablos Rojos have a stadium that could host them.

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The $160 million Alfredo Harp Helu Stadium opened in March 2019 and seats 20,000.

"The cornerstone was to have the stadium," Diaz said. "You can see everything that has happened since we opened it: A young squad from the San Diego Padres came for the opening day of it and then everything slowed with the coronavirus pandemic, but last year we had a great series with Padres and Giants and now this."

Even though the ballpark is small compared to MLB standards, the carnival-like atmosphere stands out. Last year, Padres players wore Mexican wrestling masks in the dugout and broke a Buzz Lightyear pinata after the games against the Giants.

"To have the opportunity to go there, to Mexico, and pitch there, I have a lot of family members there who will have the opportunity to see me pitch," said Yankees pitcher Victor Gonzalez, who is Mexican. "So to wear the Yankee pinstripes and be at home and pitch in front of my family, I think it's going to be incredible for me."

Alex Verdugo, another Mexican player on the Yankees' roster, is happy to go on the trip south of the border.

"I know how the games are down there; it's going to be very special," said Verdugo, who played for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. "I feel blessed and special, this series will remain in my heart forever."

Tickets for the games sold out a month ago in less than an hour, and prices in the resale market range from $130 in the bleachers to $2,000 behind home plate.

"To me the price is reasonable; it's not every day that you can watch your two favorite teams playing against each other," said Armando Arce, a 45-year-businessman who purchased a $250 ticket for Sunday's game.

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