KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Growing up in Mexico City, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow's exposure to Major League Baseball was limited to watching the Saturday "Game of the Week" on television and making the occasional trip to Houston to watch the Astros in the Astrodome.Throughout his years in college and the
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Growing up in Mexico City, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow's exposure to Major League Baseball was limited to watching the Saturday "Game of the Week" on television and making the occasional trip to Houston to watch the Astros in the Astrodome.
Throughout his years in college and the various business ventures he made in his adult life, baseball was a favored pastime, and it eventually became his livelihood when he joined the Cardinals front office in 2003. In his fifth year as general manager of the Astros, Luhnow will return to his roots this weekend, when the Astros play a pair of exhibition games against the Padres in Mexico City, where he was born and raised.
The two-game exhibition series is part of an ongoing collaboration between MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Mexico City Mayor's Office to promote the sport in Mexico. It will be held in Mexico City's Estadio Fray Nano and will include the MLB Festival in Zócalo Square.
• Spring:Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs
"It's a good opportunity for our club to get more exposure in Mexico, and hopefully that translates into more exposure with our Hispanic fans in Texas," Luhnow said. "The largest component of Hispanics in Texas is Mexican descent, and we've been aspiring to sign players, develop players from Latin America -- focused on Mexico -- the last few years, because we'd love to have a Mexican star playing in Houston.
"That would attract a lot of new fans, and it's also personally exciting for me to go to the town I was born in and raised and with a team that is as good as the Astros are right now. It's a lot of fun."
Luhnow's parents moved to Mexico City for work from New York City in 1965, the year before he was born. His father, Chris, worked for an advertising agency on a two-year rotation and wound up staying in Mexico. Chris still lives there and works in the real estate business. Luhnow's stepmother and brother and family still live there, too. His brother, David, is the bureau chief of Latin America for the Wall Street Journal.
When Luhnow was a kid, his father had a publishing business that included an English-speaking guide book to Mexico, so the family traveled all over the country to different tourist areas and stayed in hotels and restaurants so his parents could write about the experience. He spent a lot of his weekends as a child in places like Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.
• Astros set roster for Mexico City exhibitions
The Houston GM said a large group of classmates from his high school will be attending the game.
"Baseball was always a big sport," Luhnow said. "It's always secondary to soccer in Mexico, but it was a big sport in Mexico City when I was growing up. Once I got to high school and college, that's when Fernando [Valenzuela] became a superstar, and it really took the awareness of baseball to the next level in Mexico. It was kind of fun to watch that happen.
"Mexico's baseball tradition is still very rich. There are times when American players have gone down to play in Mexico and are surprised at how knowledgeable the fans are. There's always been a number of good Mexican pitchers playing in the big leagues, and so that connection has always been strong."
To help showcase the Astros, the Astros will take rising stars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to Mexico when they leave Friday. The Mexico City Series marks a return to Mexico for the Astros, who also played a pair of Spring Training games there against the Marlins in 2004.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.