Play Ball puts Mexico Little Leaguers on display

May 8th, 2018

MONTERREY, Mexico -- The big leaguers had their moments during the Mexico Series between the Dodgers and the Padres at Estadio Monterrey during the weekend, and on Monday, the country's Little Leaguers stepped up to the plate on the same field for their chance to shine.

The latest edition of the Play Ball activation featured more than 300 participants from all over the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. The event featured hitting and fielding drills, baserunning and agility workouts. All participants received a Play Ball T-shirt, bat and ball set, and special wristbands.

"We are excited to be here in Monterrey as an extension of the weekend series between the Dodgers and the Padres," said Tony Reagins, Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President of Baseball and Softball Development. "We are excited about letting these kids come out on a Major League field and stadium and experience baseball and softball. We want to continue to bring these types of events around the world."

Joining Reagins at the event were U.S. Consul General Timothy Zuniga-Brown, and Carlos Pagan, Latin America Regional Director for Little League Baseball International. Kim Ng, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, and Rodrigo Fernandez, the director of MLB's office in Mexico, along with Jose Maiz, the president of the Monterrey Sultanes, were also present.

Little League teams from San Nicolas and Linda Vista areas of the Monterrey played a game following the activation.

"Little League Baseball here is big and they have had three world champions in Williamsport, Penn., so everyone is crazy about baseball here," Pagan said. "The most important thing about Play Ball is that it allows more players to play the game. We are losing kids who are not playing because of different circumstances, but for us, and I think for MLB, the most important thing is that kids get the chance to play and be good citizens. That's what it is all about."

Maiz knows how important Little League Baseball is to the country. He was part of the 1957 Little League World Series championship team from Monterrey, the first Mexican team to win the LLWS, and was invited to spend the day at Ebbets Field with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 2009, the Dodgers honored the members of Maiz's Little League team in a ceremony at Dodger Stadium.

"Many of the players that have gone on to the States and the big leagues come out of our Little League," Maiz said. "In our state [Nuevo Leon], we have 62 Little Leagues of the 230 leagues that we have in the country. All of the northeast part of the country is baseball. Now, we have to work a lot more in the south and southeast. From Mexico City to Tijuana, we are covered. We need to cover until Cancun."

The Play Ball activation capped a busy day for Major League Baseball in Mexico. On Friday, Dodgers starter threw six no-hit innings and three Dodgers relievers combined to throw the first combined no-hitter in franchise history in the 4-0 win against the Padres in the first game of the Mexico Series.

On Saturday, Dodgers closer and Padres outfielder , Mexican pitching legend Fernando Valenzuela, and Hall of Fame Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin and other officials, dedicated refurbishments to the computer center at the Club de Ninos y Ninas de Nuevo Leon as part of a partnership between Major League Baseball and the Boys and Girls Club of Mexico.

Monday's event was also dedicated to the children of the country.

"The leadership here has been great, and we wanted to provide that opportunity for them," Reagins said of the event. "It's memorable, and hopefully, it's something they can take away with them for the rest of their lives."

Play Ball launched in June 2015 and has operated events in hundreds of cities across the United States. Last week Major League Baseball played host to the first bi-national Play Ball event with more than 600 participants from Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

In April, the Play Ball activation in Puerto Rico featured more than 450 participants from all over the island.

"The energy and the crowds we have been able to amass at each event has been great," Reagins said. "We want to continue to do more of that and bring baseball to communities around the country and around the world. The growth that we anticipate has more kids playing the game and being more involved. Hopefully, they continue to love the game more than they already do."