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Superior Baseball League Season Kicks Off With 36 Teams

March 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

It's baseball time in Puerto Rico. The defending champions San Lorenzo Samaritanos didn't start the season the way they wanted nor did they come close to the way they rounded out their 2000 season. Instead, the team last week ended up losing the Superior Baseball League season opener 1-0 to the Yabucoa Azucareros.

In addition, the Major League Baseball season opens April 1, with the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays playing their 2001 season opener on the island.

The SBL kicks off its season with 36 teams divided into six divisions. The San Lorenzo Samaritans, who won the East Division Group A title last year, went on to win its second-straight title and third in the past four seasons, sweeping the Santa Isabel Potros in four games in the final series.

Last Sunday, however, the Azucareros, another team to watch in 2001, shut out the Samaritanos. In a pitching duel, Yabucoa star and veteran pitcher Wilfredo "Cano" Vélez defeated San Lorenzo's Angel "Bebe" Cruz as Asmel Acun drove home Luis López with the game's only run. It will be this kind of season because so many teams are participating.

"With so many teams, you never know what to expect. All teams have improved and you can lose to anyone," said San Lorenzo franchise holder Carlos Del Valle.

"For the moment, the goal for these teams is to advance to the next round, the playoffs. But there is almost three months of play coming. So, we are just starting."

Last year, the league had four divisions, each with A and B groups. This year, the new format will include only two divisions, the North and South, each with three sections. The sections for the North will be called north, northeast, and east. The South's will be central, southeast, and southwest.

Teams in the North Division, North Section are the Aguadilla Tiburones, Camuy Arenosos, Florida Titanes, Manati Atenienses, San Sebastian Patrulleros, and Utuado Montaneses. Starting with the North Division's Northeast Section, teams include the Carolina Gigantes, Fajardo Cariduros, Gurabo Halcones, Río Grande Guerrilleros, Vega Alta Maceteros, and Vega Baja Melao Melao. In the East Section, San Lorenzo heads the group, along with Yabucoa Azucareros, Juncos Mulos, Humacao Grises, Las Piedras Artesanos, and Maunabo Jueyeros.

In the South Division, the Central Section will have the Aibonito Polluelos, Barranquitas Proceres, Cayey Toritos, Cidra Bravos, Comerío Pescadores del Plata, and Orocovis Centinelas. The Southeast Section will have the Coamo Maratonistas, Guayama Brujos, Juana Díaz Poetas, Patillas Leones, Salinas Peces Voladores, and the Santa Isabel Potros, last season's runner-up. In the Southwest Section, the group includes the Aguada Navegantes, Cabo Rojo Piratas, Lajas Cardenales, Peñuelas Petroleros, Sabana Grande Petateros, and Yauco Cafeteros.

Each team will play 20 games, with the top four in each section advancing to the playoffs. In the end, the top teams from the North, East, and Northeast sections will play a round-robin series, while the champions from the Central, Southwest, and Southeast sections play their round-robin series.

Once there's a winner from each of the six divisions, the Carnival of Champions is played. This step concludes with the top two teams playing in the finals, slated for a best-of-seven series.

The season is dedicated to Puerto Rico's national team, which won the 1951 World Baseball Championships in Mexico. Four teams are making their debut in the league: the Maunabo Jueyeros, who used to play in the rival Baseball Confederation League (Coliceba), Lajas Cardenales, Aguada Navegantes, also from Coliceba, and the Orocovis Centinelas.

The season began with a controversy, which led to Puerto Rico Baseball Federation President Osvaldo Gil's resignation. Team franchise holders approved Guillermo Bonilla as new owner of the Cayey Toritos, but Gil said the process to name him was illegal. Bonilla then named star first baseman Efraín "Cano" García manager of the team, which also was ruled illegal by Gil.

The case went to court and a superior judge ruled in favor of Bonilla, resulting in Gil's resignation. "There are certain steps to be followed when selecting a franchise holder, and those weren't taken," Gil said.

"García played last year with Yabucoa and he can't go to another team just like that, because it looked like tampering from the Cayey team." However, a Supreme Court judge overruled the decision and favored Gil, so he's expected to be back at the helm of the SBL. In the meantime, Guayama Brujos franchise holder Enrique Sued is taking over the presidency until the situation is settled.

2001 Superior Baseball League Season Games

Weekend of March 10-11

Saturday, March 10
(Games start at 7:45 p.m.)

East Section Northeast Section Southeast Section Central Section Southwest Section North Section
Yabucoa at Maunabo Carolina at Vega Baja Salinas at Juana Diaz Orocovis at Comerio Aguada at Peñuelas Utuado at San Sebastián
Juncos at Humacao Fajardo at Gurabo Coamo at Guayama Barranquitas at Aibonito Yauco at Lajas Manatí at Aguadilla
Vega Alta at Río Grande Patillas at Santa Isabel Camuy at Florida

Sunday, March 11
East Section Northeast Division Southeast Section Central Section Southwest Section North Section
Río Grande at Vega Alta,
2 p.m.
Sabana Grande at Cabo Rojo,
10:45 a.m.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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