MONTERREY, Mexico -- Though he had traveled to the Dominican Republic last December as part of his Big League Impact charitable efforts, veteran Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright prioritized carving out time for one particular excursion: He wanted to take in a winter ball game.
The experience captivated Wainwright that evening, and it was that scene that first came to mind when Wainwright confirmed about a week ago that he’d draw a start for St. Louis in this weekend for the Mexico Series in Monterrey. He’ll be opposed Saturday by Cincinnati’s Tanner Roark.
“It was just incredible,” Wainwright said of that December game. “The crowd was super fired up. I’m looking forward to pitching in a different atmosphere like that. The different demographics are going to be a cool thing for everyone and for the game of baseball.”
Reds Sunday starter Anthony DeSclafani has not previously experienced winter ball but is hoping for a similar setting when the crowd fills the ballpark.
“I assume it’s going to be a little crazy,” DeSclafani said. “I’ve never been to Mexico. If it’s a crazy atmosphere, I think it’s going to be awesome. I can watch Saturday’s game and then pitch in it on Sunday.”
Spreading the game beyond borders is the impetus for this visit, which is the second of three Major League Baseball will make to Monterrey in 2019. Both clubs arrived in Mexico on Thursday evening, ahead of the two-game series at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey.
“I think it’s great,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I’ll always love being able to bring the game to other parts of the world. I think it makes a lot of sense. We’re happy to contribute and make the trip. I think it’ll be a good experience for everyone.”
It’ll be an especially meaningful trip for one individual, and that’s Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos. He’s the only Mexican-born player on either roster, and his parents planned to make the trip from their home to watch him take the field as a Major Leaguer.
A native of Obregon, Mexico, Gallegos last played in Mexico in 2016, when he was participating in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. He felt fortunate to be called up from Triple-A Memphis earlier this week, just in time to join the Cardinals on the international trip.
“So many people in Mexico will enjoy those games,” said Gallegos, whose introduction to the sport came from his grandfather and father. “It’s good for the kids because so many people in Mexico, they can’t come to the U.S. to watch big league games.”
Ahead of Saturday’s game (7:10 p.m. ET), here is all the relevant information fans need to know about the first season meeting between the Reds and Cardinals:
Where will the games be played?
Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey, with a capacity of approximately 27,000 seats, will host the two-game series with the Reds serving as the home team. Built in 1990, the Monterrey Sultanes of the Mexican League are the primary tenant at the ballpark and have won four of the franchise’s nine league championships there. Major League Baseball has been played numerous times there. The Dodgers and Padres played three regular-season games in Monterrey last season, and the Padres have played four other regular-season games in the facility, in 1996 and ’99. The first time MLB visited the facility was 1991, when the Brewers and Dodgers played in an exhibition.
What should I know about Monterrey?
According to Lonely Planet, Monterrey is the third-largest city in Mexico and boasts a population of more than 1 million people. Although the Sultanes began in 1939, the city really put itself on the baseball map when its youth team won the 1957 and 1958 Little League World Series tournaments in Williamsport, Pa. The Sultanes are currently managed by former Reds outfielder Roberto Kelly.
What is the Mexico Series?
Last month during Spring Training, the D-backs and Rockies played two exhibition games in Monterrey. Next month from May 4-5, the Angels and Astros will also play a two-game series at the stadium.
Have the Reds and Cardinals ever played internationally before?
The Reds and Cardinals will both be playing regular-season games for the first time in Mexico in the franchises’ history. The last international games Cincinnati played were at Toronto in May 2017 when the Blue Jays swept a three-game series at Rogers Centre. The last time the Reds played south of the border was 2003, when they dropped a three-game series vs. the Expos in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cincinnati also played the Expos often at Montreal from 1969-2003.
This will mark the third international city in which the Cardinals will play a regular-season game. St. Louis played annually in Montreal from 1969-2004 and traveled to Toronto for Interleague series there in 2005, ’10 and ’14.
What community events are planned in conjunction with the trip?
More than 200 children from Back2Back Monterrey will attend the games and receive free tickets, food, transportation and more, compliments of the Reds, Cardinals and Major League Baseball. Back2Back is a Cincinnati-based international non-profit organization that benefits orphans and at-risk children around the world.
On Saturday morning, 100 children from Back2Back will be among those who participate in a MLB “Play Ball” clinic with players from both clubs involved. Mascots Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red from the Reds and Fredbird from the Cardinals will visit with the kids.
How can I watch the games?
For the Reds, both games will be carried on Fox Sports Ohio on television and WLW-AM on radio as part of the Reds radio network.
In St. Louis, both games will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest and air on KMOX 1120 AM. The Cardinals will offer a Spanish radio broadcast in St. Louis on WIJR 880 AM.
Sunday’s game (4:10 p.m. ET) is also scheduled to be nationally televised by ESPN.
Who will join each team as a 26th man for the series?
The Reds have called up outfielder Phillip Ervin from Triple-A Louisville to be their 13th position player since they are already carrying 13 pitchers. Ervin has previously had seven big league callups over the last two seasons.
The Cardinals have added utility man Yairo Munoz to their active roster for the series. Munoz cracked the Opening Day roster and was 1-for-4 in limited action before being optioned to Triple-A Memphis last Saturday. The benefit of bringing him back is the versatility that Munoz offers. He can play, as needed, anywhere in the infield or outfield.
• The Reds and Cardinals have had a National League Central rivalry that’s often been intense, especially when both teams were contenders. But in recent years, St. Louis has dominated. Over parts of the 2017-18 seasons, the Cardinals took 13 consecutive games vs. the Reds and six straight series. However, Cincinnati finished the 2018 head-to-head matchups with three consecutive series wins from St. Louis.
• Wainwright has seen a lot of the Reds during his long career but has not fared well over many of the games. In 29 games, with 24 starts, he is 9-11 with a 5.04 ERA. Roark hasn’t had a great track vs. the Cardinals, either. In his seven career games (five starts) vs. them, he is 2-3 with 6.58 ERA.
• On Sunday in the second game of the series, the Cardinals will start Miles Mikolas against DeSclafani. Mikolas is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in five games vs. the Reds, including three starts over his career. In 10 career games including nine starts vs. St. Louis, DeSclafani is 5-2 with a 3.42 ERA.
• Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong will arrive riding a career-best 12-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the National League. He’s also tallied an extra-base hit in five consecutive games and has scored eight runs in his last three.
• Reds first baseman Joey Votto has reached safely in each of his last 16 games vs. the Cardinals. In 80 games over the last five seasons, Votto is batting .347/.484/.605.
• Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer are the only two players on the Reds’ roster that appeared in regular-season MLB games at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. With the Dodgers last season in three games vs. San Diego, Kemp was 7-for-13 (.538) with one homer and three RBIs. Farmer was 1-for-7 (.143).
• Bell, who became a first-time Major League manager this season when hired by the Reds in October, was previously the bench coach for the Cardinals under then-manager Mike Matheny from 2014-17.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.