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Bahamas Beats P.R. In Davis Cup Group II Play, "Pancho" Padilla To Buy Bayamon Vaqueros

By Gabrielle Paese

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Bayamon was the epicenter of sports in Puerto Rico this week. The town hosted Puerto Rico‚s 3-2 loss to the Bahamas in Americas Zone Davis Cup play and nearly got two new franchise holders for its Superior Basketball League team, the Bayamon Vaqueros.

Tennis first. It‚s been up and down for Puerto Rico‚s men since they made their Davis Cup debut in 1992. The loss to Bahamas means the team is precariously perched in Group II; Puerto Rico would have guaranteed itself a Group II spot for 2005 had they won. Bahamas will now play Mexico for a chance to move on to the finals of the 2004 Americas Zone Group II playoffs.

The Puerto Ricans split the first day of the doubleheader against Bahamas. Gabriel Montilla defeated Christopher Eldon of the Bahamas, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the opening match but then Mark Merklein, ranked 42nd in the world in doubles, defeated Puerto Rican Luis Haddock, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4).

Bahamas took a 2-1 lead after Saturday‚s doubles as Merklein and Bjorn Munroe defeated Montilla and Gilberto Alvarez, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(3). On the final day of play, Merklein got the best of Montilla, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, to bump the Puerto Ricans out. Ricardo Gonzalez, an 18-year-old University of Georgia student, pulled out the final ˆ albeit meaningless ˆ win for Puerto Rico over Bahamas H‚Cone Thompson, 6-4, 7-5.

April 9-11, will be the key dates for the team as they face Jamaica in the Group II elimination tie. The loser drops down to Group III. Jamaica is also hanging on by a thread, having lost to Mexico last week in Group II play.

NCAA college students Luis Haddock and Ricardo Gonzalez will be in the thick of their respective seasons with Notre Dame and University of Georgia. Haddock is the No. 1 seeded player for Notre Dame while Gonzalez is No. 6, under the direction of fellow Puerto Rican Manolito Diaz at Georgia. Whether or not they play in April for Puerto Rico will be up to their university coaches.

The April 9-11 matchup versus Jamaica is tentatively set for the same indoor venue as this first tie, Bayamon‚s Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum. The arena is currently booked for a Disney on Ice show that weekend. The Puerto Rico Tennis Association‚s other alternative is to play the tie outdoors.

Speaking of Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum, the facility is scheduled to be closed for repairs this spring, which means the SBL‚s Bayamon Vaqueros, on the verge of being bought by former Arecibo owner Francisco "Pancho" Padilla, will be homeless for a three-week span.

Better to be homeless than owner-less, an experience the Vaqueros had for about 24 hours this week. Current Bayamon majority (80 percent) franchise holder and former player Juan Trinidad put the team up for quick sale this week and lo and behold, an unexpected but welcome buyer appeared on the horizon ˆ boxing promoter Peter Rivera.

Rivera, who runs his Best Boxing Promotions out of Bayamon, was so convinced the deal was sealed, he showed up at practice one day this past week and paid the players $50,000 in debts Trinidad owed to them.

The next morning, when Rivera faxed the details of the sale to Trinidad, the Bayamon owner balked, claiming Rivera‚s written offer came in under what they had verbally discussed. Seems Trinidad wanted close to $800,000 for the team while Rivera was offering $550,000.

Into the mix stepped the former Arecibo franchise holder, who got a reported $1 million for the sale of the Arecibo Capitanes earlier this year (boxing promoter Yamil Chade bought the team).

While the deal is not yet signed, it‚s expected to go through this time.

Meanwhile, Rivera said he won‚t likely dabble in basketball again anytime soon.

"I wrote out checks to the players in good faith yesterday [Monday] but when I started to pay out I found out the team owed a whole mountain of cash to whole lot more people," said Rivera. said Rivera. "Anyway, what kind of an operation doesn‚t pay its employees?"

When informed that it was standard practice in the SBL to pay the players one year late, Rivera said that he had never seen anything similar, not even in his boxing experience.

The Vaqueros are billed as one of the four most successful franchises in recent history (the other three being Santurce, Ponce and San German). However, Trinidad has repeatedly said the team he bought three years ago from Cuco Ortiz is in the red.

"Over three years he had the franchise and it had losses and he wanted us to pay him for what he lost while he was running it," said Rivera. "How is it possible that the stock of your company can go up when you have losses? I don‚t want to get mixed up in a mess. Any accountant would tell me that he should pay me to get involved there."

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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