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PUERTO RICO HERALD
Venezuela Out Of Caribbean Series, Puerto Rico To Field Two Teams
By Gabrielle Paese
January 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
It's official: Venezuela is not fielding a team at the Caribbean Series Feb. 2-7 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Instead, Puerto Rico will send two teams, the Caguas Criollos and the Mayaguez Indios.
That's the word handed down this week from Caribbean Baseball Confederation president Juan Francisco Puello Herrera, to Caribbean Series promoter Benjamin Rivera.
Rivera said the announcement is final and he doesn't anticipate any last-minute changes. While reports out of Caracas continue to pin hopes on the Venezuelans ultimately fielding an all-star team, at this late date it's unlikely the players would get visas to enter Puerto Rico in time.
The eight-team Venezuelan Winter League officially canceled its season on Jan. 13. Play had been suspended since Dec. 9 a week into the country's anti-government strike. Given the current political climate, league officials said they couldn't guarantee fan or player security at the ballparks, nor could they ensure media coverage or supplies. The strike cost the league an estimated $4 million and many of the Venezuelans involved in organized baseball left for the United States back in December after travel warnings were issued by the U.S. State Department.
With Venezuela out, host Puerto Rico earns the distinction of fielding two teams -- its winter league champion and runner up. The championship series is currently in progess between Caguas and Mayaguez.
In addition, both Caguas and Mayaguez have the option of adding up to 10 reinforcement players from any of the Puerto Rico winter league's four ousted teams, meaning that between the two teams, Puerto Rico will have plenty of talent to go around at Carolina's Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium.
"It takes some of the luster away from the finals knowing that win or lose, we're going to go to the Caribbean Series," said Mayaguez general manager Carlos Pieve. "But by the same token it makes for a more exciting Caribbean Series. Can you imagine if both Puerto Rican teams make it to the final and play each other. That's something I'm sure the fans would like to see."
Pieve said that from an international standpoint, Venezuela's absence won't be felt as much as if the Dominicans or Mexicans had pulled out.
"Venezuela was always the weakest of the four teams at the Caribbean Series, with the Dominicans and the Mexicans being the strongest, and then Puerto Rico."
Mexico's Tomateros de Culiacan won last year's Caribbean Series held in Caracas.
The Bayamon Cowboys, owned by former Boston Red Sox infielder Carlos Baerga represented Puerto Rico at the 2002 Caribbean Series, but were ousted last week in the semifinals by Mayaguez. Baerga, however, said this week that he and many of his team's top players would be available to reinforce either Caguas or Mayaguez.
Mayaguez's Pieve said he didn't think the Indios would come close to the 10-player limit.
"As far as I know Chris George is the only player who has said he won't play in the Caribbean Series," said Pieve. "I doubt we'll make many changes because we don't believe in changing a winning formula."
By the way, the Caribbean Series' website finally went up this week. For access: www.seriedelcaribe2003.com.
Montreal Expos in San Juan: tickets go on sale Jan. 18
As I said in last week's column, tickets for the Montreal Expos' 22-game homestand at San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium go on sale to "season ticket" buyers beginning Jan. 18. If you want tickets you have to buy your seat for all 22 games during this sale. Claude Delorme, executive vice president of the Montreal Expos, said individual ticket sales probably won't start for another two to four weeks -- only after bulk ticket sales have dropped off.
These tickets don't come cheap, individually or in packages of 22. Prices range from $10 per seat for bleacher seating to $85 for Box seats behind home plate.
The Expos regular ticket prices in Montreal range from $8 for general admission to $26 for box seats and $36 for first-level VIP seats that ring the infield from dugout to dugout.
Delorme, however, defended the prices by saying that the majority of the seats are priced competitive to those of better attended major league ballparks.
"The Box A, B and C seats [priced from $65 to $85] represent less than 16 percent of the stadium's seats. The $10 to $25 seats represent 51 percent of the seating," said Delorme. "If you compare the prices to a team like the Boston Red Sox, their average ticket price is just over $35."
The Expos open their San Juan season versus the New York Mets from April 11-14, followed by the Atlanta Braves April 15-17 and Cincinnati April 18-20.
The second homestand brings World Series defending champion Anaheim to San Juan June 3-5 and the Texas Rangers June 6-8. The final homestand is Sept. 5-7 versus the Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs Sept. 9-11.
Fans interested in season tickets can begin purchasing Jan. 18 at 9 a.m. via four options. The first is to go to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Fans can also call ticketpop at 787-294-0001, or go to any Casa de los Tapes outlet in Puerto Rico or purchase via internet at www.ticketpop.com. For the last three options (telephone, internet, store), there will be a $3 service charge per ticket, said Ticketpop's Manny Morales.
Prices for the lower level seats behind home plate and between the two dugouts will be $85 for the 1,002 seats directly behind home (box seats A) and $75 for the remaining 1,252 seats between the dugouts (box seats B). Under the current block ticket sales plan, however, you would have to spend $1,936 to reserve a Box seat A for 22 games or $1,716 to reserve a Box seat B.
Tickets for lower-level seating along the left and right field lines (box seats C) will cost $65, upper level tickets behind home plate (preferred seating A) will sell for $45 and upper level seating behind the dugouts (preferred seating B) will cost $35.
For Box seats C, the grand total will be $1,496 for "season tickets," while preferred seating A and B will run $1,056 and $836, respectively. The cost of 22 general admission tickets is $616 while bleacher seating in bulk would run $242. These costs include the service charge. Handicapped seating in Box seat A will cost $42.50 per game and $37.50 in box seats B.
Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.