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Aguilas' Big League Power Too Much For Indios

By Gabrielle Paese

February 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

The Dominican Republic's Aguilas Cibaenas were too powerful of a team to have expected anything less than the display of offensive talent that earned them the 2003 Caribbean Series title over the Mayaguez Indios in a decisive tiebreaker.

With AL MVP Miguel Tejada in a Dominican lineup that included big leaguers Rafael Furcal, Luis Polonia, David Ortiz, Raul Mondesi, Felix Jose and David Ortiz, Mayaguez would have needed nothing less than a Cy Young-winning pitcher on the mound to come out on top.

Add to that the fact that the Indios drew first blood earlier in the week with Enrique Calero pitching a jewel of a game, allowing just two hits over six innings to give the Indios a 10-0 victory against the Aguilas in their first encounter.

Even had Calero stuck around for Friday's second meeting, he would have needed no less than a no-hitter to change Mayaguez's fate.

As it was, Mayaguez's combined effort from Dicky Gonzalez, Ismael Villegas, J.C. Romero, Mambo de Leon and Jonathan Albadalejo could not stop the Dominican bats from knocking out hits (12) and home runs (two, courtesy of Raul Mondesi and Felix Jose) for a 6-0 victory last Friday night. Dominican ace Odalis Perez wasn't back on the mound for the second Mayaguez-Cibao showdown, but Aguilas manager Felix Fermin didn't need him anyway, because he starter Jose Acevedo allowed the Indios just two hits en route to shutting them down completely and forcing the tiebreaker.

"They played better than we did," was Mayaguez manager Nick Leyva's simple analysis of the 7-3 drubbing the Aguilas handed the Indios Saturday night to earn the Caribbean Series title.

"They had the best lineup I've ever seen for a Caribbean Series," said Leyva. "You have to give them credit. Their pitching was effective and our batters weren't. They took our fans out of the game in the first inning and we had to meet the challenge of coming from behind."

The Aguilas scored four runs in the first inning and Mayaguez didn't rally until the ninth with three runs the left the Indios short. David Ortiz was named Series MVP.

Hindsight is 20-20 and Puerto Rico would have needed talent along the lines of its 1995 Caribbean Series major league Dream Team to take on the Aguilas' lineup. In Mayaguez's defense, it didn't help the team any that Puerto Rico watered down its talent by having to field two teams in Venezuela's absence. Had Venezuela played, Mayaguez could have added Caguas' major league infield plus the additional reinforcements that ended up going to the Criollos.

Given the outcome, Puerto Rico's winter league got an important wake-up call during the first week of February at Carolina's Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium. The final two games were sell-outs at the gate, but even in Puerto Rico, Dominican fans outnumbered the locals. I'm sure promoter Benjamin Rivera could care less who was at the ballpark as long as the seats were full, but Puerto Rico's winter league should take a lesson from the Dominicans. Baseball is a way of life in the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico's fan base is all but completely eroded. It's time to really put some effort into bringing the fans back into the ballpark.

Kenya's Philip Rugut wins San Blas International Half Marathon

A team of Kenyans worked together to elbow out U.S. marathon world record holder Khalid Khannouchi this past Sunday in Coamo's 13.1-mile San Blas International Half Marathon. Contrary to years past (Khannouchi holds the record for San Blas titles with an unprecedented four), their strategy worked. Philip Rugut and young James Kwambi made it a 1-2 Kenya finish in 1:04.19 and 1:04.56, respectively, leaving defending champion Khannouchi to settle for third in 1:05.06.

With his victory, Rugut followed the well-worn path Khannouchi himself took in 1995 when he launched his international running career in Puerto Rico by winning the Modesto Carrion Half Marathon in San Lorenzo and San Blas several months later.

Rugut had promised Puerto Rico last November after winning the San Lorenzo race that he would be back to take Coamo.

Russia's Tathyana Khmeleva won the women's race in 1:18.28, followed by Puerto Rico's own Maribel Burgos in 1:20.54, a record for Puerto Rican women in Coamo. Utuado's Luis Collazo was the first Puerto Rican male across the finish line, 12th overall in 1:08.38.

Brazilian boxing champion Acelino Freitas trains in Dorado for March 15 fight

Under the watchful eye of his Puerto Rican trainer, Oscar Suarez, WBA and WBO super lightweight champion Acelino "Popo" Freitas (32-0, 29 KO) set up camp just west of San Juan in the resort area of Dorado to prepare for his March 15 title defense in Chicago versus Mexican Juan Carlos Ramirez (29-4, 12 KO).

Suarez, a native of Corozal who now calls New Jersey home, said Freitas favors the warm climate to help him put the final touches on his technique for the champ's ninth title defense.Freitas' presence is good news for Felix Trinidad's cousin, Juan "Golo" Gomez (22-2, 15 KO). Gomez, a hard-hitter like Freitas, is preparing for a March 6 fight for the FECARBox title versus Mexican Efren Hinojosa (25-1, 17 KO) and will benefit from training with Freitas. Gomez is currently ranked sixth in both the WBA and the IBF at 135 pounds (lightweight).

Suarez, who trained Naseem Hamed, is making even more of a name for himself with Freitas. It was Suarez who prepared Freitas for his stunning 12-round decision over Cuban Joel Casamayor last year. Freitas handed Casamayor his first career defeat in 26 starts and stripped him of his WBA title.

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

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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