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Origins, history and evolution of baseball in Mexico

April 22, 2024

It is impossible to pinpoint precisely where the first baseball game was played in Mexico. Despite a few cities claiming the honor and many efforts to find the exact place, not even historians themselves can agree. But analyzing many of the studies, three cities emerge as the closest to being the site of that first game: Guaymas, in the state of Sonora; Nuevo Laredo, state of Tamaulipas; and Cadereyta Jiménez, state of Nuevo León.

Guaymas has the most accurate data, which indicates that in 1877, American sailors aboard the ship Montana visited that port and played a pickup game amongst themselves. Others in ships like the Newborne did the same, and shortly after a club was created in Guaymas.

Meanwhile in Nuevo Laredo, which shares a border with Texas, some American engineers were hired to oversee the construction of the railroads in the state of Tamaulipas, including Johnny Tayson, who loved the new sport and began to teach the game to his workers, eventually resulting in two teams that faced each other.

Not long after, Yucatán was another state that became known for baseball due to its proximity to Cuba.

WBSC ranking: 2nd

Last World Baseball Classic appearance: 2023

Best WBC finish: Semifinals, 2023

Most notable current player in MLB: Isaac Paredes (Rays)

A native of Hermosillo, Sonora, Paredes enjoyed a breakout season in 2023 for the Rays, slugging a career-high 31 homers and driving in 98 runs as Tampa Bay earned an American League Wild Card berth. The third baseman was signed by the Cubs as an international free agent in 2015 before being traded to the Tigers two years later. Just before the start of the 2022 season, Detroit traded Paredes to the Rays for outfielder Austin Meadows. Paredes proved himself with Tampa Bay, hitting 20 homers in 111 games with the club in 2022 before earning down-ballot AL MVP Award votes the following year. Paredes' strong 2023 began with the WBC, where he batted .375 with a home run and a .944 OPS to help Team Mexico reach the semifinals.

Total of Mexican players on current MLB rosters: 13

Professional leagues: Mexico has many professional leagues, but two of the most important are Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (LMB), which plays during the summer, and Liga Mexicana del Pacífico (LMP), which is their Winter League and whose champion plays in the Caribbean Series.

Total Major Leaguers all time: 147

First Mexican Major Leaguer: Baldomero “Melo” Almada, Red Sox, 1933

Mexico can take pride in the fact that it has seen 147 players in the big leagues. The first was Baldomero (Melo) Almada, who was born in Huatabampo, Sonora, and played seven seasons in MLB. Almada was a speedy outfielder who had his best years with the Red Sox.

Melo’s big-league debut came on Sept. 8, 1933, when he played center field for the Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader against the Tigers.

The Boston Herald published on Oct. 2, 1933, that Almada was the last player to get a hit off Babe Ruth (October 1). That day, Almada got three hits and worked two walks against “the Great Bambino”.

He finished his career with a .284 average, 15 home runs and 197 RBIs. He also played for the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Mexican-born players who have left their mark in MLB

Fernando Valenzuela (1980-1997)

Of course, you can’t talk about the best Mexican Major Leaguers in history without mentioning Fernando Valenzuela, who with his charisma and talent became one of the most beloved personalities on the Los Angeles Dodgers and sparked Fernandomania in 1981.

The lefty, born in Etchohuaquila, Sonora, is the only pitcher in MLB history who has earned Cy Young and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season (1981). He was also was a six-time All-Star and led the National League in complete games three times (1981, 1986 and 1987). “El Toro” was member of two World Series champion Dodgers teams in 1981 and 1988 -- though he couldn’t pitch in the 1988 postseason due to injury -- and logged a no-hitter against the Cardinals on June 29, 1990.

According to an article by Ken Gurnick, Valenzuela’s 1981 season was the third best in Dodgers’ history for a starting pitcher, surpassed only by Sandy Koufax’s 1966 campaign and Orel Hershiser’s 1988 season.

The Dodgers retired Fernando’s No. 34 during a pregame ceremony at Dodger Stadium in August 2023.

Vinny Castilla (1991-2006)

As a former member of the Blake Street Bombers -- the Rockies’ quartet of sluggers in the '90s -- Castilla is considered the best Mexican hitter in MLB history. He was a three-time All-Star and finished his career with 320 home runs, the most among Mexican-born players in the Majors.

Castilla played 16 seasons in the big leagues with the Braves, Rockies, Rays, Astros, Nationals and Padres. In 1,854 games he finished with 902 runs, 1,884 hits and a .276 average.

Adrián González (2004-2018)

Though born in San Diego, “El Titán” is one of the historical faces of Mexican baseball after playing 15 big league seasons with the Rangers, Padres, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets. He was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger Awards. He retired second among Mexican-born players in home runs (314) and is first in RBIs (1,193).

Joakim Soria (2007-2021)

Soria pitched 14 Major League seasons as a reliever. Born in Monclova, Coahuila, Soria spent half of his career with the Royals after being selected from the Padres in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft. Soria quickly became a key piece in the Kansas City bullpen and later established himself as their closer, logging 162 of his 229 career saves for the Royals. The righty was a two-time All-Star.

Beto Ávila (1949-1959)

In his 11-year career, Ávila played for the Braves, Orioles, Red Sox and Cleveland, where he had his best stint in the big leagues from 1952 to 1955. The infielder, known in the Majors as Bobby, earned three All-Star appearances and was the AL batting champion in 1954 with a .341 average.


Aurelio Rodríguez (1967-1983)

Rodríguez stood out for being a great defender at the hot corner. In 1976, he won a Gold Glove with the Tigers and was well-known for his strong arm.

In 1966, Beto Ávila praised Rodríguez, saying, “This guy has everything to be in the big leagues. His fielding is impeccable, and if his hitting improves, he’ll be there to stay." And Ávila was right.

Honorable mentions: Teodoro “Teddy” Higuera, Óliver Pérez, Jorge “Charolito” Orta, Erubiel Durazo, Esteban Loaiza.

Future Mexican star in MLB? Marcelo Mayer

The 21-year-old Mayer is MLB Pipeline's No. 14 overall prospect.

The Chula Vista, California-born shortstop was the fourth overall pick by the Red Sox in the 2021 MLB Draft and made history when he became the Mexican player with the highest signing bonus ($6 million) from a big league organization.

In 2023, Mayer earned a promotion to Double-A Portland after hitting .290 with an .890 OPS and seven home runs in 35 games for High-A Greenville. Overall, he hit .236/.306/.433 with 13 home runs, 19 doubles, nine steals and 54 RBIs. The scouting reports point out Mayer’s glove, with great range, good athletic ability and a productive bat. The left-handed hitter only has seen playing time as a shortstop.

Mayer comes from a great baseball bloodline whose most notable name is his great-uncle Héctor “Chero” Mayer, born in Nogales, Sonora, and a veteran of the Minor Leagues with the Cardinals organization before becoming a star with Diablos Rojos del México (LMB) and Mayos de Navojoa (LMP) in the '50s.

According to MLB Pipeline, Mayer is expected to reach the Majors at some point in 2024.

Most notable moment in Mexican baseball history: Mexico reaches the 2023 WBC semifinals

The 2023 World Baseball Classic was a memorable one for Team Mexico, which enjoyed its best-ever finish at the event by reaching the semifinals. Mexico had never made it past the second round before the 2023 WBC.

Mexico delivered a strong performance in pool play, posting a 3-1 record and beating the United States 11-5 in its tournament opener. It was Mexico's third win over Team USA in the WBC, following victories in 2006 and 2013. By virtue of its win over the U.S., Mexico won a tiebreaker to win Pool C and advance to the knockout stage.

The run didn't end there. Despite falling behind 4-0 in the first inning, Team Mexico rallied to beat Puerto Rico 5-4 in the quarterfinals to advance. In the eighth inning, outfielder Randy Arozarena made a leaping catch at the wall to keep his country in front. Mexico reached the semifinals for the first time ever, falling to eventual champion Japan in a thrilling 6-5 game.

Mexico has captured the third most Caribbean Series titles with nine.

Historic moment by a Mexican-born player in MLB: Fernando Valenzuela’s win over the Yankees in the 1981 World Series

On Oct. 23, 1981, the Dodgers were down 2-0 in the Fall Classic and Tommy Lasorda’s team was in a must-win Game 3 against New York. In that game, Los Angeles prevailed 5-4 behind a gutsy outing from the rookie lefty. Valenzuela gave up nine hits and six walks in a 146-pitch complete game that changed the course of the series, sending the Dodgers to three straight wins after that to capture the Fall Classic.