Lovullo, D-backs connect with Monterrey on trip

March 10th, 2019

MONTERREY, Mexico -- D-backs manager Torey Lovullo smiles when he thinks about his time playing in Mazatlán in Mexico’s Winter League.

Lovullo remembers shaking world champion boxer Julio Cesar Chavez’s hand after a game, and then being floored when the Mexican legend acted like he knew who the infielder was. The first time Lovullo, who grew up in Southern California, went to the beach the day of a night game was when his Mexican League teammates convinced him to go because he needed to lighten up. A more relaxed Lovullo never limited his beach time again.

The Mexico experience helped teach Lovullo about perspective and scope, how baseball can bring cultures together and why baseball in the country matters. It’s a philosophy that mirrors his organization’s message, and a big reason why the D-backs are playing in Mexico for the 11th time in the franchise’s history this weekend.

“I think baseball is such an incredible game that is seen worldwide, and it bonds communities and it bonds cultures and brings people together in a very special way,” Lovullo said. “For me, baseball in my family, it equaled love. We are here to show people that we are connected to this community through this great game."

The Mexico Series between the D-backs and Rockies began Saturday night at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey, as Colorado won, 5-1, and it concludes Sunday. The Mexico Series continues next month when the Reds will host the Cardinals for a two-game regular-season set on April 13-14, and the Angels and Astros will play a two-game series on May 4-5 in Monterrey.

For their part, the D-backs had previously played in 10 exhibition games from 1998-2015 in Hermosillo in the Mexican state of Sonora.

“It’s very important for us to have a presence in Mexico, and we’ve always had a long presence and relationships that span throughout all of Mexico,” D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said. “We’ve had close attachment with proximity to Sonora and Hermosillo over the years, but now for us to play in Monterrey is great and hopefully, in Mexico City one day.”

Hall and other club officials have made more than a dozen trips to Mexico in the last five years. Later this month, the D-backs will serve as the sponsor for the fifth annual half-marathon in Hermosillo. The club has also had a strong working relationship with the Mexican Pacific Winter League for years.

“As I have learned more about the organization in the last couple of years, I know that we are strongly connected to the Mexican community and for us to come into this part of the country should show how committed we are to connecting with this group,” Lovullo said. “I know Derrick sets the tone and he has a vision and Major League Baseball has a vision and I think Major League Baseball has a certain vision about possible expansion, so for us to get here and play Spring Training games, the next step is to get here and play several games here during the regular season and see where that relationship takes us.”

Whether Mexico gets a franchise one day is to be determined. What’s certain is that D-backs starting position players Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta and Steven Souza Jr. all made the trip, and Lovullo said he had to turn other regulars who wanted to play in Mexico down. Escobar and Peralta were among the stars in Saturday morning’s Play Ball event hours before the first game of the series began.

“It’s important to plant our flag here and let everyone in Mexico know that we care about them,” Hall said. “We truly love this country, and we want them to be part of what we have each and every year.”