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D-backs grateful to play in Mexico Series

@JesseSanchezMLB
March 10, 2019

MONTERREY, Mexico -- There’s a large statue of Tony Perezchica’s Mexican League manager, Hector Espino, on the concourse at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey, and it peeks over the 2019 Monterrey Mexico Series sign in front of the home-plate entrance to the stadium. Espino, known locally as “the Mexican Babe Ruth,”

MONTERREY, Mexico -- There’s a large statue of Tony Perezchica’s Mexican League manager, Hector Espino, on the concourse at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey, and it peeks over the 2019 Monterrey Mexico Series sign in front of the home-plate entrance to the stadium.

Espino, known locally as “the Mexican Babe Ruth,” is an icon. The historic stadium is one of the city’s marvels, and those facts are not lost on the D-backs’ third-base coach.

“My uncle played here a long, long time ago, so he knew the city and it was a tradition in our family to play in Monterrey, Mexico, back in the early '70s,” Perezchica said. “It almost brought me to tears because I was like, ‘Wow, my uncle played here many years ago.’ It was fun and exciting for me to be here.”

The D-backs wrapped up their memorable two-game Mexico Series on Sunday, triumphing, 5-2, over the Rockies. The Mexico Series in Monterrey continues next month when the Reds host the Cardinals for a two-game set on April 13-14, then again on May 4-5 when the Angels and Astros play their own two-game series.

“For me, I just want to say, ‘Thank you,’” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “These fans don’t really know us that well and it was nice to see that energy. From our entire organization, I just want to say, 'Thank you' to this entire baseball community and the fans.”

The D-backs and Mexico have been working on their relationship for years, and the club hopes the trip will strengthen their ties. The club had previously played in 10 exhibition games in Hermosillo -- in the Mexican state of Sonora -- from 1998-2015. Club officials have made more than a dozen trips to Mexico in the last five years.

“The D-backs want to be Mexico’s team,” D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said. “It’s a challenge with so many teams that have that proximity to the border, yet we are willing to put the time and energy in because we know what the benefits are, and what the rewards are.”

Like Perezchica, the Mexico Series provided an unforgettable weekend for D-backs Minor League pitcher Miguel Aguilar, who is also from the country. On Saturday, Aguilar, who signed with the D-backs in 2016 out of the Mexican League, entered in the sixth inning and retired Yonathan Daza. He struck out Colton Welker for the second out before giving up a solo home run to his friend Roberto Ramos (also from Mexico).

“We’ve faced each other a few times in the Minor Leagues and he came out victorious this time,” Aguilar said. “I’m just really happy to be in Mexico with a Major League team, and with my Major League teammates. It’s been a lot of fun.”

On Sunday afternoon, Aguilar caught the ceremonial first pitch from former D-backs player and current team advisor Erubiel Durazo before the series finale. On Sunday night, the D-backs will return home and get to sleep in their own beds in Arizona before resuming Cactus League play Tuesday.

“We are getting great feedback from our visit here and I think we accomplished what we wanted to,” Hall said. “We built some new relationships off the field business-wise, but more importantly, on the field, these fans got to see what the Diamondbacks are all about.”

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.