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P.R. (Ponce) Out Of Caribbean Series Contention

By Gabrielle Paese

February 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

There won't be any payback for Puerto Rico this weekend at the Caribbean Series finishing up at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The Ponce Leones, who hadn't been to a Caribbean Series in 22 years, lost their first three games right out of the gate, relegating them to the cellar. A second 7-6 loss to Venezuela Thursday eliminated them from contention at mid-week. Puerto Rico's first-game 7-6 loss to Venezuela was particularly discouraging because it came on three errors, two by third baseman Luis Lopez.

Ponce plays for pride in its remaining games against Mexico and the Dominican champion Licey Tigers.

One bright note for Puerto Rico over in Santo Domingo ö The Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame inducted 84-year-old former major leaguer Luis Rodriguez Olmo into its Hall. Rodriguez Olmo played in four Caribbean Series and helped the Santurce Cangrejeros to the league title in 1953. He was the Caribbean Series MVP in 1951 in Caracas, powering Santurce to the championship. He hit .416 with three home runs and nine RBI that year. Olmo hit .303 and had 13 RBI in his combined Caribbean Series work over three years with Santurce, Caguas and San Juan.

Rodriguez Olmo was inducted along with fellow Puerto Rican Carmelo Martinez, Dominican George Bell and Cuban Diego Segui.

From first to worst?

Speaking of winners and losers, it's hard to tell who got the best end of the deal this week when former Florida Marlins catcher and World Series champion Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez signed his four year, $40 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez, MVP of the NLCS en route to the World Series, is a 10-time All-Star and a 10-time Gold Glove winner. The Tigers need no introduction as the worst team in baseball. On a positive note (for Pudge), Rodriguez spent 12 years of his career with the Rangers, with nary a trip to the World Series to show for it.

Enrique Figueroa wins Olympic Classes Rolex Regatta in Miami

In his first big Tornado trial prior to Athens, Puerto Rican sailor Enrique Figueroa and his crew, Jorge Hernandez, won the Tornado class in the 2004 Olympic Classes Rolex Regatta in Miami. In doing so, the duo beat out Figueroa's mentor, Australian Mitch Booth, who finished fourth.

The Puerto Rican duo also beat out 2000 Olympic bronze medalists Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacker, of Austria. Booth, silver medalist in the 1996 Games and an eight-time Tornado world champion, was the man Figueroa contracted to coach him prior to the Sydney Games.

"We're pretty happy. It's not every day you beat the world champions and the top-ranked sailors in the world," said Figueroa. "Now we know we can be competitive and that we can sail as fast as they can. Now it's a question of keeping that mentality until the Olympics."

Figueroa is a three-time world champion in Hobie catamaran sailing, but Tornado is its closest equivalent in Olympic sailing.

Figueroa qualified for the 2004 Games by virtue of a 13th place ranking at the Worlds in Cadiz, Spain, last November.

Puerto Rican gymnasts Luis Felipe Vargas and David Ramos started the 2004 NCAA season out rock-steady this week. The two finished first and second, respectively, on the high bar during the 13th annual West Point Open gymnastics meet held in West Point, N.Y.

Vargas, a Penn State sophomore, helped his team, ranked second in the U.S., to its seventh straight meet title with a 214.625 score.

Ramos a junior at Temple in Philadelphia, Pa., boosted the Owls to fourth place in the 10-team field with a score of 206.150. Ramos was second on the all-around (52.750), his best NCAA finish so far.

Diaz 12th athlete from P.R. to qualify for Olympics in individual sports

Besides Figueroa, if I had to put my money on any one athlete most likely to medal in Athens, it would be taekwondo competitor Ineabelle Diaz. Diaz, who finished fourth in her weight class in the 1992 Olympics back when the sport was for exhibition, met the rigorous qualification standards to go to Athens last week when she beat all contenders at the zone qualifier held in Queretaro, Mexico.

Competing at under 67 kilos, Diaz, of Dorado, beat out Guatemalan Haydee Juarez, 5-1, for the gold medal. Juarez had ousted Diaz in 1999 during the Sydney Olympic qualifiers. Juarez was the 1999 Pan Am Games gold medalist. The top three finishers in each weight class earned Olympic berths at this qualifier, the last chance for a trip to Athens. Diaz beat Argentina's Varmina Sanchez in the first round, 4-3.

Diaz credits her coach, Ruben Ayala, and the time she spent sparring in high-altitude Puebla, Mexico, versus 1992 Olympic medalist Williams De Jesus for her victory. While it's true Diaz lost in the first round of the Pan Am Games (and briefly retired following that loss), the Olympics are not out of her grasp, especially if she moves up to heavyweight.

Diaz is Puerto Rico's most decorated taekwondo athlete, a four-time Central American-Caribbean Games medalist (three gold, one silver).She won bronze at the 1999 Pan Am Games.

In addition to Puerto Rico's basketball team, the other 11 athletes already qualified for Athens are Mark Watring (equestrian), Alex De Jesus (boxing), Ivonne Harrison and Luiggy Llanos (track and field), Ricky Busquets, Arsenio Lopez and Andrew Livingston (swimming), Mabel Fonseca (wrestling), Ramon Ayala (judo) and Enrique Figueroa and Jorge Hernandez (Tornado sailing).

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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