MEXICO CITY -- The Padres and Giants are bringing big league baseball to the Mexican capital this weekend.
The two National League West rivals square off in this year’s Mexico City Series, which got going with Saturday night’s historic 16-11 Padres win and is wrapping up right now at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú. Major League Baseball has visited Mexico on numerous occasions in the past, but these are the first regular-season games played in Mexico City.
“I love it,” said Juan Soto, after experiencing the festive atmosphere in Saturday's game. “I loved it every second, every moment,”
The games are being played amid quite a backdrop for Mexican baseball. Team Mexico is coming off an improbable run to the World Baseball Classic semifinals, and its world baseball ranking has risen to No. 3. The Padres, the home team for the two-game series, have a massive following in Baja California in Mexico, just south of San Diego.
“It’s going to be an awesome opportunity,” said Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski before the start of the series. “Obviously, it’s going to be a different atmosphere. I think that’ll be really fun to experience, maybe get a little bit of a winter ball feel without playing winter ball. … It’s a great opportunity for the game to keep growing.”
What is the Mexico City Series?
Part of the “MLB World Tour,” the Mexico City Series is the latest installment of the league’s initiative to bring international games to major baseball markets. (The Cubs and Cardinals will provide an encore later this summer with their London Series.) This weekend’s games mark the 12th and 13th regular-season games to be played in Mexico -- but the first to be played outside of Monterrey.
“Promoting baseball around the world is a good thing,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “I’ve been to Japan a couple times and had great times both times I was there. Looking forward to going to another country and promoting our game again.”
Said Giants manager Gabe Kapler: “We just want as much expansion as possible and grow the fanbase, get fans in cities like Mexico City and in countries like Mexico excited about Major League Baseball. Mexico has great talent and has a great professional baseball league. I think there’s obviously room for fans in Mexico to enjoy local professional baseball and also be a fan of Major League Baseball, so it’s very exciting.”
When are the games and how can I watch them?
With Saturday’s game in the books, the two clubs are wrapping up the historic set right now. You can watch the finale live on MLB.TV. NBC Sports Bay Area and Bally Sports San Diego will provide coverage for the Giants and Padres, respectively. MLB Network will broadcast Sunday's game to out-of-market locations. ESPN Mexico and Star+ will serve as the local broadcasters on Sunday as well.
What’s the history of Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium?
Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium is the home ballpark of the Red Devils of Mexico, who play in the Mexican League. Located in Mexico City’s Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City park -- home of the 1968 Summer Olympics -- it was opened in 2019 and has a capacity of 20,576. The stadium was set to host the Padres and D-backs for a Major League series in April 2020, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is named after businessman Alfredo Harp Helú, the owner of the Red Devils and, as of 2012, a minority owner of the Padres.
What should I know about Mexico City?
The capital and largest city in the country, Mexico City is one of the world’s largest and most vibrant cities, with a population nearing 22 million in the metro area. Located in Mexico’s highlands central plateau, it sits at an altitude of 7,350 feet. Mind you, that’s notably higher than hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado. As Saturday's slugfest showed, we could be in for some offense in the finale.
What’s the history of MLB games in Mexico?
MLB has played five regular-season series in Mexico, dating back to the Padres-Mets series in August 1996 in Monterrey. The Padres and Rockies met for a single game in Monterrey in 1999, and the Padres and Dodgers faced off there again for a three-game set in 2018. In 2019, the Cardinals played the Reds and the Astros faced the Angels for two games each in Monterrey.
Have the Giants and/or Padres participated in any other international games?
The Padres have played more games in Mexico than any other franchise. They played in Monterrey on three separate occasions in 1996, ‘99 and 2018, totaling seven games entering this weekend. The Giants, meanwhile, had never played games outside of the United States and Canada before Saturday.
What community events are planned in conjunction with the trip?
On Friday, the Padres visited the Liga Olmeca Little League, where they hosted a clinic for over 200 kids, featuring various players, including Xander Bogaerts, Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter. On Saturday morning, prior to the first game, the Giants participated in a Play Ball event at the youth diamond outside Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium with children from the John Langdon Down foundation. Joc Pederson was on hand, among others.
Is there anything else fans should know?
- Mexico has had 146 players reach the Major League level, including 13 who have appeared in an MLB game in 2023. Fernando Valenzuela is the most decorated Mexican MLB player, appearing in six All-Star Games and winning the NL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards in 1981. Pitchers Ismael Valdéz, Teddy Higuera and Yovani Gallardo have all come from Mexico, as did slugger Vinny Castilla. Dodgers ace Julio Urías, Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk and Mariners reliever Andrés Muñoz are among the current players from Mexico.
- The Padres are 4-3 all-time in games played in Mexico. They won the first big league game ever played in Mexico in 1996, beating the Mets behind six strong innings from a then-34-year-old Valenzuela.
- It’s the first meeting of the season between these two teams, after the Padres won last year’s season series, 13-6. Both games are home games for San Diego. With MLB having already reduced series against divisional opponents from six to four, this weekend’s Padres home series in Mexico means the Giants will only make one trip to San Diego this season -- Aug. 31-Sept. 3.