HOUSTON -- The Astros' trip to Mexico City in March to play the Padres in a pair of exhibition games will be a proud event for Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow, who is Major League Baseball's first Mexican-born GM.The Padres and Astros will play exhibition games at Fray Nano on
HOUSTON -- The Astros' trip to Mexico City in March to play the Padres in a pair of exhibition games will be a proud event for Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow, who is Major League Baseball's first Mexican-born GM.
The Padres and Astros will play exhibition games at Fray Nano on March 26-27, MLB, the MLB Players Association and Mexico City Mayor Dr. Miguel Mancera announced on Wednesday in a news conference attended by Luhnow and All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.
Luhnow said he has wanted to get the Astros to play in his native country since he took over as GM late in 2011 and credited Commissioner Rob Manfred for being aggressive in trying to figure out how to grow the game in Mexico.
"They asked for volunteers and we raised our hands very early in the process and said we'd love to play in Mexico, and we were fortunate enough to be selected," Luhnow said. "We're thrilled, and I hope this is the first of many opportunities to play games in Mexico City and other parts of Mexico."
Luhnow's parents moved to Mexico City for work from New York City in 1965, the year before he was born. Luhnow's father worked for an advertising agency on a two-year rotation and wound up staying in Mexico, and he still lives and works there in the real estate business. Luhnow's stepmother and brother and family still live there, too. Luhnow's 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.
"I spent a lot of my weekends as a child in places like Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun," he said. "It was pretty neat. It was a pretty special experience."
While in Mexico City on Wednesday, Luhnow got to tell his story, as well as the story of the Astros, to the Mexican media in attendance. It was front page news. What's more, players from the Little League in which Luhnow used to play were at the event, which made it all the more special.
"Little did I know when I was a young kid playing Little League baseball in Mexico City that someday I would be back with a Major League team as a general manager and playing games down there," he said. "It's kind of surreal, but it's really exciting."
Luhnow said Altuve is excited about going back to Mexico in March, and he hopes Altuve spreads the anticipation to some of his teammates. Luhnow said he'd like to take Carlos Correa, Carlos Gomez, Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Valbuena to the games in Mexico (the Astros also have split-squad games in the Grapefruit League on those days).
In addition, Luhnow said the Astros plan to take Mexican-born Minor League outfielder Leo Heras, who will be in big league camp, and Mexican Minor League pitchers Enrique Chavez and Jose Luis Hernandez on the trip.
And who knows? Maybe MLB will have a team in Mexico City one day.
"Mexico City is a large city with a growing middle class, which is what you need to support a Major League franchise," Luhnow said. "There's some challenges with respect to the altitude -- similar challenges to what Denver has faced -- but those can be overcome. It can be a great market."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.