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 two-game exhibition series starting Sunday became a reality.

“Alfredo (Harp Helú, the Diablos owner) is close friends with Omar Minaya and that propelled everything,” said Othón Díaz, 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.

Díaz 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.

The $160 million Alfredo Harp Helú 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 piñata 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 reliever 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.”

Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Volpe, Jose Trevino and Oswaldo Cabrera were among the players listed on the Yankees’ travel roster, which did not include any members of their projected starting rotation.

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.

NOTES: Yankees manager Aaron Boone expects 1B Anthony Rizzo to be ready for the season opener Thursday at Houston but remains unsure about 3B DJ LeMahieu. Rizzo missed his second game Saturday with lat soreness. “When I talked to him after he had been here a couple hours and got treatment and moved around a little bit, he felt like today would be something he would play with,” Boone told reporters in Tampa, Florida. Boone didn’t rule out Rizzo playing Monday in the Yankees’ final spring training game in Florida. LeMahieu, who hasn’t played since fouling a ball off his right foot on March 16, continued a running program, took infield and hit in the cage on Saturday. “He’s still feeling it pretty good,” Boone said. “I do think it’s improving every day. I do feel like he’s moving in the right direction, but will it be in time we’ll see.” Oswaldo Cabrera likely would fill in for LeMahieu at third.


AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.


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