How the Urías brothers rose up the ranks of Mexican baseball

March 9th, 2023

MAGDALENA DE KINO, Mexico -- In the 1970s, catcher Sergio Robles recorded two hits over 16 games with the Dodgers and Orioles. It was a wholly undistinguished career for one of the most accomplished players in Mexican history.

A brilliant defensive catcher who won five Mexican Pacific League championships over his 19 seasons with the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Robles is regarded as a living legend in his country, particularly his hometown of Magdalena de Kino, a tight-knit community of approximately 30,000 in the northern state of Sonora.

Robles, nicknamed “Kalimán” after a popular Mexican comic book superhero, is enshrined with a statue outside Estadio Padre Kino, a 3,000-seat baseball stadium that serves as the home of the amateur Membrilleros de Magdalena. Robles also lends his name to a local youth league and another field located less than a mile away, places that became unlikely breeding grounds for two other big leaguers: infielders Luis and Ramón Urías.

In 2018, the same year Robles’ statue was unveiled, Luis became the second player from Magdalena to reach the Majors when he debuted with the Padres, who later dealt him to the Brewers. The town swelled with even more pride when Ramón, the older brother by three years, earned his first callup with the Orioles in 2020.

“I feel like most people recognize them and are proud that they come from Magdalena and that they are representing Magdalena and the people of Mexico,” their father, Ramón Urías Sr., said in Spanish. “They really hold them in high esteem, and that's something we're really thankful for. All those people have supported us throughout their whole careers. I really don't think we struggle with anyone not accepting or loving them. They're all very proud of what they're doing and what they'll be doing next.”

A statue of Sergio Robles is located at Estadio Padre Kino, a 3,000-seat baseball stadium.

The Urías brothers were expected to achieve another childhood dream by teaming up to represent Mexico in the World Baseball Classic beginning on Saturday, but those plans fell through after Ramón was forced to withdraw due to a last-minute insurance issue. Luis still figures to play a leading role for Team Mexico, which will compete with the United States, Colombia, Canada and Great Britain in Pool C at Chase Field in Phoenix and attempt to advance out of the group stage for the first time since 2009.

Even so, it’s hard to imagine Luis would be in this position without Ramón, who helped pave the way for his younger brother to make the improbable rise from Magdalena to the Majors.

“For Luis, I think his biggest progress was because of that,” said Víctor Ochoa, who coached both brothers as kids. “He always had his older brother supporting him and helping him in every way. … Ramón gave Luis a lot of advice. He was his rock, always supporting him.”

Added Luis: “If he was learning something at 18, he would teach it to me when I was 15 … As a younger brother, whatever he wanted to do, I wanted to do it, too. I wanted to be like him, and when he [signed], I said, ‘OK, I want to be a baseball player, too.’”


In 2001, Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism partnered with several other agencies and regional governments to create the “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magic Towns) program. The purpose of the initiative was to promote and celebrate small towns across the country that were known for their historic preservation and charm.

In Sonora, the second-largest state in the country, there are only two towns with the special designation: Álamos and Magdalena de Kino, which is situated roughly 50 miles south of the United States border.

Named after Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary who explored the region in the 17th century and defended the rights of the native people, Magdalena is known for its picturesque Plaza Monumental, which houses three main buildings: a mausoleum containing the remains of Father Kino; the Santa María Magdalena church; and the chapel of San Francisco Javier, the patron saint of the town. Every day, local residents and tourists pass through the chapel to pray to San Francisco, who features prominently in the religious wares and other handcrafted souvenirs sold by vendors across the square.

The other main religion in town? Baseball.

Soccer remains Mexico’s most popular sport on a national level, but baseball reigns supreme in the northern part of the country, especially following the iconic career of ace left-hander Fernando Valenzuela, another Sonora native who rocketed to superstardom with the Dodgers in the 1980s. In Magdalena, the region’s rich baseball tradition is celebrated at places like Home Plate Restaurant, which sits a few blocks from the Plaza and displays its menu -- tacos dorados, menudo, tortas, etc. -- in the form of a lineup.

In Magdalena, the region’s rich baseball tradition is celebrated at places like Home Plate Restaurant.

“Here in Mexico we have a lot of baseball fans,” Ochoa said. “We have fervent fans who are really passionate. Not as many fans as in the United States, but we really like baseball. We're going to be there as long as we’re alive. For me, baseball is a disease that won’t be cured until I die, really.”

The Urías brothers caught the baseball bug from their father, a schoolteacher who encouraged his two sons to begin playing the sport at a young age.

“We literally played almost every day,” Luis, 25, said. “Since Magdalena's small, all we did was play baseball every day.”

Ramón, 28, was the first to debut on the local youth baseball circuit and vividly remembers playing in his first game in the nearby town of Cucurpe when he was 6. Luis, meanwhile, initially had to be cajoled into joining his older brother on the fields of Magdalena.

“My dad pushed me to play baseball,” Luis admitted. “I didn't want to. I felt embarrassed when I played baseball. I liked it, but I couldn't bring myself to get out of the house and get started. I think that would be the first memory that I'll never forget. That they forced me to play when I was little, and here we are now.”

Despite their distinct personalities -- Ramón is more reserved, while Luis is more outgoing -- the brothers shared preternatural abilities on the baseball field, skills that quickly gained them renown around the region.

“You could see Ramón's talent right away, at age 5,” said José Ramón Urías Celaya, an assistant sports director in Magdalena. “Ramón’s hands were exceptional from the start, and he was a great hitter. Luis had a time where he started and then kind of backed out. But then he came back, and what's special about him is he's very lively. He's very cheerful when he plays. Ramón is very serious.”

Ramón and Luis Urías featured on the cover of Cu4rto Bat.

When he was 15, Ramón left home to sign with the Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League, though it didn’t take long for him to experience the highs and lows of professional baseball. Over the next decade, Ramón would be signed and released by the Rangers, designated for assignment by the Cardinals and claimed off waivers by Baltimore, where he finally broke into the Majors at 26 and won the American League Gold Glove Award at third base last year.

His challenges doubled as lessons for Luis, who enjoyed a far more expeditious path to the big leagues after being discovered by a Padres scout at 16.

“Obviously, it was hard to leave my family, my brother,” Ramón said. “But my goal was clear. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to play baseball. ... It was a great learning experience, and I think it helped my brother too. He left three years later, and I had already been through some things that maybe helped him get started at pro baseball.”

The Urías brothers continue to lean on each other in the Majors, offering advice for the best approaches against top pitchers like Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and keeping in touch primarily through gaming sessions on their PlayStations.

While Ramón and Luis spend the majority of the year in the United States, their bond with their hometown remains unshakeable.

Like Sergio “Kalimán” Robles, the Urías brothers are now prominent figures around Magdalena. Two years ago, the municipal government recognized their accomplishments by naming the street in front of Estadio Padre Kino after them. Following a recent February workout at their old stomping grounds, the brothers found themselves surrounded by local kids, who lined up to request autographs and selfies with their town’s most recognizable celebrities.

The street in front of Estadio Padre Kino was named after the Urías brothers.

“As you can imagine, two brothers from Magdalena in the Major Leagues, it brings a lot of pride to the town,” childhood friend Luis Millán said. “Maybe we don't have a lot of academies, but kids are more motivated because they know two brothers from Magdalena made it to the Major Leagues.”


Mexico may not be as well-represented in the Majors as powerhouses like the United States or the Dominican Republic, but the country has assembled a talented roster that it hopes will allow it to make a deep run at the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Luis, who also played for Mexico in the 2017 WBC, will be joined by newcomers such as Dodgers ace Julio Urías (no relation), Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, Brewers teammate Rowdy Tellez, Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval and Phillies right-hander Taijuan Walker, making the squad one of the favorites to advance out of Pool C along with Team USA.

“I think it's one of the best feelings to represent your country,” Luis said. “I think that's what I've always wanted. To wear the Mexican flag will always be a source of pride for me. Any chance I get to represent Mexico, I'll take it.”