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Fajardo Wins Its First Superior Baseball Title In 50 Years

By Gabrielle Paese

August 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Outside of Puerto Rico, you don‚t really hear much about the island‚s Superior Baseball League. Doble A (AA), as it is affectionately called in Spanish, still operates under the quaint notion that its players must never have played organized (read professional) baseball, making it a strictly amateur, all-Puerto Rican league, replete with guys who might have at least been successful minor leaguers had they dipped their big toes in the waters and signed a contract.

Nor does Doble A make any space for former major leaguers in the twilight of their careers. Nope. Doble A always operated under the guise that its season would serve to choose the players who would represent Puerto Rico internationally, in baseball tournaments that are still largely amateur, despite the fact that the International Baseball Federation (AIBA) gave pros the go-ahead five years ago.

Even though Puerto Rico boasts major league ballplayers with Hall of Fame numbers, Doble A players enjoy all the fame back on the island. The league has the biggest, most loyal fan base of any sport here and the formula for its success is simple. Doble A teams are spread out among the smaller towns on the island. The teams steer clear of the metropolises where they might have to compete with other activities for the fans‚ attention. Competition is by region, fomenting rivalries in neighboring towns. The players live and hold regular jobs in the communities for which they play, meaning they are accessible, something that can‚t be said of today‚s reclusive pros. Games are played mostly on the weekends, dragging out the season, but guaranteeing attendance and making it easy for the fans to follow.Given these factors, it was no surprise then that the league had to move this year‚s Doble A final series between the Yabucoa Azucareros and the Fajardo Cariduros to San Juan‚s storied Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Bithorn was the only venue large enough to hold the estimated 12,000 fans who turned up for the series. It was the kind of support the Expos wished they had had during their stay in San Juan.

Fajardo ended up winning the title last Friday with a historic 5-2 come-from-behind win over the Yabucoa in the seventh and decisive game. Trailing 2-1, the Cariduros scored four runs in the sixth inning to earn their first "Sunday baseball" title in 50 years.

No one celebrated the win harder than Fajardo manager Efrain "Cano" Garcia, who led the Cariduros to a seventh and final game last year, only to lose to Comerio. This year, Fajardo liquidated Comerio in the semifinals and life took an ironic twist: Garcia found himself facing off against his former franchise, the Azucareros, a team he helped to three titles from 1994 to 1996.

"My baseball career has had so many high points. But as a manager, this has to be the greatest moment," said the former first baseman after Fajardo‚s victory.

"First, it‚s great for this team, which had to wait 50 years for a championship and second, it‚s great for me because I have won both championships in one year."

Garcia, 42, piloted Barceloneta to the championship in a second, off-season amateur league, Coliceba, last year.

Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was 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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