By Phil Hecken
“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” — Field of Dreams
God I miss baseball. But, pitchers and catchers report (four of the most beautiful words, when strung together like that, in the English language) on or about February 14th, and all will be right in the world again. Or, in the words of W. P. Kinsella, who penned the novel Shoeless Joe (which was the basis for the movie Field of Dreams), “baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure”¦If only life were so simple.” But until such time as Spring Training officially begins, anyone with the MLB channel has been treated this past week to The Caribbean Series, or “Serie del Caribe.”
The Caribbean Series (Serie del Caribe in Spanish) is the annual postseason tournament featuring the champions of the Caribbean winter leagues. First begun in 1949, the series was an annual event until 1960. Following a ten-year hiatus, it was restarted in 1970 and has been played annually ever since. From 1949-1960, tournaments featured the Cuban Winter League, Panama League, Puerto Rican Winter League, and Venezuelan League. Following the resumption of play in 1970, the series features the winners of the Dominican Winter League, Mexican Pacific League, Puerto Rican Winter League, and Venezuelan League.
The 2009 Caribbean Series began on February 2, and continues through this evening, with the champions teams from Dominican Republic, Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers); Mexico, Venados de MazatlÃ¡n (Mazatlan Deers); Puerto Rico, Leones de Ponce (Ponce Lions), and Venezuela, Tigres de Aragua (Aragua Tigers). For those of us with MLB TV, each of the games has been broadcast each evening at 5:00 and 9:00 pm (eastern). Tonight’s games will pit Puerto Rico (visitors) against Venezuela in the early game, followed by the Dominican Republic (away) vs. Mexico in the night-cap.
The format consists of 12 games, in a double round-robin format with each team facing each other twice. Puerto Rico is making its first appearance in the Caribbean World Series since 2007. The games are being played at Estadio Casas GEO in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. The team with the best record after six days is declared the winner. Since the (thus far) undefeated team from Venezuela (5-0 heading into Saturday’s games) has already “clinched,” Saturday’s games will have no effect on the standings and Venezuela are the 2009 Caribbean Series Champions. (Had there been a tie, a single-game playoff would have taken place on Sunday). Still, if you’re hankering for some baseball, and you have the MLB Network, tune in to the games.
Although the game of bÃ©isbol, as played in the Serie del Caribe, is the same game as is played elsewhere in the world, the uniforms worn by the participants, as well as the stadium, size and make up of the crowds, are different than what we are used to seeing on major league fields. Lets begin with an examination of the uniforms for each team.
Dominican Republic: (1-4 thru Friday)The Dominican team feature a two-tone red and blue jersey for their “away” games, with usually very stylin’ low-cut pants. Like the other teams in the tournament, their uniforms are in the same colors as their flag. Their “home” uniforms are similar, sporting a button-down, two-toned shirt in white with red sleeves. Like all teams in the Series, the Tigres feature advertising on their unis. They have a patch (CDD) on their right shoulder, and a big “Orange” (a major telecommunications company) logo on the back. Caps are red and blue with “RD” enblazoned on the crown, and their helmets are solid blue with more advertising on the side of the helmet.
Mexico: (3-2) Although technically the host, Mexico has been sporting both home and away uniforms throughout the tournament. Their home uniform is solid white with striping around the shoulders, while the away uniform is two-toned, in the colors of the Mexican flag. Advertising if rife on their uniforms, with “Milpa Real” (a tostada and corn-meal products brand) on below their wordmark, everyone’s favorite BIMBO (a brand of bread in the US and Mexico) on the helmets, and even something I can’t quite make out pants. Plus, they have the unofficial beer of Mexico on their shoulder blades. Their caps are green with a red and gold inline “M” and their helmets are red. Players have also been wearing a black memorial ribbon on their caps for the series (I believe it is for the father of a coach who recently passed away).
Puerto Rico: (1-4) The Puerto Rican team, which may be the weakest of the four teams (having lost their first four games before winning their first on Friday), has been wearing red vests with blue sleeves for their away games, with white vests and dark sleeves when designated the “home” team. They sport a red cap and a dark blue cap as headwear, as well as a red batting helmet. Their advertising consists of “Seguros Triple S” (a financial holding company) for away games on their shoulders, and DonQ (a Puerto Rican Rum) on the homes, plus a circular Dodge patch on their jersey, and other other patch adverts on each sleeve. Like all teams, their uniforms bear the colors of their flag. The red Puerto Rican cap features a red, white and blue “PR”, a nod to their status as a United States’ territory as well as their flag.
Venezuela: (5-0) The final team in the Series, Venezuela, is also the strongest. Interstingly, they have sported basically the same uniform throughout the series, each time wearing a two-button pullover blue top with red cap or a two-toned red and blue cap, regardless of their status as visitors or home (nice socks — you don’t see a lot of sock in these games). Here’s the two-toned cap in a day game (plus socks!) and the solid cap at twilight. Along with the blue jersey, the Venezuelan’s always wear pinstriped pants and blue helmets. Their advertising consists of “movilnet” (a state owned cellular company) on their helmets, and MaltÃn Polar, a popular Venezuelan beverage on their backs. Unlike the other teams, they seem be lacking the yellow from flag anywhere on their uniforms.
I’ve quite enjoyed watching the Serie del Caribe, although that could be due to the baseball withdrawal from which I am currently suffering. It’s great to see the game played again, but it’s hard to get used to seeing it played on foreign soil, and I am most certainly not used to seeing any form of advertising on the uniform. I realize this is just one of the many differences between the winter leagues and the major leagues, but mark me down as “not a fan” of the advertising, especially where a nameplate should be, on the helmet and on the leg. The crowds have been a little sparce, but are generally very enthusiastic. Throughout the stadium, one will see big giant flags and plenty of advertising. The players are generally ‘all business’ on the field, but enjoy a little pre-game relaxation just like they do in the bigs.
As much as I can’t get used to the advertising on the players, it’s even stranger to see it on the hitter’s backdrop! I guess it’s not enough to distract the batter’s eye, but I noticed it as soon as the first fly ball went towards center field. It’s also very strange seeing advertising on the umpire. As if we needed another reason to “kill the ump.”
Ah yes. Baseball is just around the corner.
And now a quick word from Paul: Anyone out there ever submit an unsolicited uniform or logo proposal to a team? If so, did you ever hear back from the team’s front office (even if only via a “No thanks” form letter), or did you get no response at all? If you’ve any sort of experience of this nature, I want to hear from you. Thanks.