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August 27, 2004
Outside of Puerto Rico, you dont really hear much about the islands 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.
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 Fajardos victory.
"First, its great for this team, which had to wait 50 years for a championship and second, its 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 email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.