The 2023 Caribbean Series begins this Thursday in Venezuela with clubs from eight countries, the largest representation in 65 editions of the regional tournament.
Leones del Caracas (Venezuela), Tigres del Licey (Dominican Republic), Indios de Mayagüez (Puerto Rico), Cañeros de Los Mochis (Mexico), Vaqueros de Montería (Colombia), Federales de Chiriquí (Panama), Farmers (Cuba) and WildCats (Curaçao) will meet until February 10 to decide the Caribbean winter baseball champion of champions.
Cuba reappears and Curacao debuts.
The classic returns to Venezuela after nine years and will have two venues: the Simón Bolívar Monumental Stadium in Caracas – a stage with a capacity for 40,000 spectators that opens in this competition – and the Forum in neighboring La Guaira. The country lost its host status twice, in 2018 and 2019, amid violent riots in protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro.
Last year, in Santo Domingo, the Caimanes de Barranquilla made a splash by winning the regional championship for Colombia for the first time.
Reinforced, among others, with the eight-time All-Star in the Major Leagues Robinson Canó and the Cuban Henry Urrutia, the Licey leads the favorites with the objective of regaining dominance from the Dominican Republic, the nation with the most titles in the tournament, 21 , ahead of Puerto Rico (16), Mexico (9), Cuba (8), Venezuela (7), Panama (2) and Colombia (1).
– Host with winning DNA –
The return of the Caribbean Series to Venezuela is also marked by the return of the club with the best record in this country, Leones, which celebrated its 21st local championship last Monday.
Winner of two Caribbean classics, in 1982 and 2006, the team broke a long drought under manager José Alguacil with their victory in the domestic final against Tiburones de La Guaira, since their last title dated from the 2009-2010 season.
"I never doubted my team"Sheriff declared to the press during the festivities.
With pieces of big league experience such as José Rondón, the brothers Oswaldo and Orlando Arcia and Jhoulys Chacín, the locals will debut at 8:30 p.m. local time (0030 GMT on Friday) in La Rinconada against the Panamanian Federales.
– Dominican and Puerto Rico to the charge –
Not only representative of the most successful country in the history of the Caribbean Series, but also the club that has won it the most times (10), the Dominicans Tigres del Licey open at 12:00 local time (16:00 GMT) against the Mexican Cañeros.
The incombustible Raúl Valdés, at 45 years old, heads manager José Offerman’s starting rotation.
Licey suffers casualties like that of Jorge Alfaro, Most Valuable Player of the local final against Estrellas Orientales, but incorporates careful bats with Canó and Urrutia. Cañeros, meanwhile, presents players like Luis Fernando Miranda, Pitcher of the Year in the Mexican Pacific League, and Cuban Yasmany Tomás, Most Valuable Player.
"We have a select group of players"Offerman told reporters."we can do a good job".
The Puerto Rican Indios de Mayagüez, with the big leaguers Emmanuel Rivera and Vimael Machín among their references, will collide at the Forum in La Guaira with the Colombian Vaqueros de Montería starting at 3:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. GMT).
The Vaqueros have several of the 2022 Caribbean Series champions on their roster with the Alligators, including Reynaldo Rodríguez -Most Valuable Player in that event- and Dilson Herrera.
– Opening –
Absent in 2020, 2021 and 2022, the Cuban representatives are back with Agricultores, who will play the first game of the Caribbean Series against the WildCats from Curacao starting at 10:30 a.m. local time (2:30 p.m. GMT) in La Guaira.
The pitcher Alberto Pablo Civil is one of the strong cards for the West Indians.
Andrelton Simmons -four times winner of the Gold Glove as a shortstop in the Majors-, Jonathan Schoop and Jurickson Profar give shine, in turn, to the WildCats.