San Juan, PR: The 2008-9 Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball Season was back in full force thanks to some great games, a good number of Puerto Rican and non-Puerto Rican MLB players that played this season and an enthusiastic fan base that was happy for the return of baseball to this baseball loving island.
I had the opportunity to see one of the semi-final games between Mayagüez and Ponce that was played in Aguadilla because Mayagüez is constructing a new sports complex for the 2010 Caribbean Games. The game was a nail biter won by Ponce in the ninth inning after trailing by two runs. Mayagüez lost that game four and as a result Ponce advanced to the finals. I enjoyed myself quite a bit and realized that baseball is alive and well in Puerto Rico especially in the towns outside of the San Juan Metropolitan area.
Now the finals are between the Leones de Ponce and the Lobos de Arecibo (who defeated the Criollos de Caguas), two teams representing the extremes sides of the island. Ponce a coastal town in the Southeast of the island and Arecibo a coastal town on the Northwest. The last time these two teams faced each other in the finals was in the 1982-83 season. Now 26 years later they face themselves once again to decide the baseball champions of Puerto Rico.
The finals will begin today Sunday at 6 PM at the Francisco “Paquito” Montaner stadium in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Ponce fans will turn out in droves and they expect a packed house.
“It will be a tight series since both teams have been playing very well,” stated the Arecibo Lobos Manager, Pat Kelly.
Ponce ended the regular season with a record of 27 wins 15 losses, the best in the league while Arecibo had the second best record with a 22 wins and 18 losses. Both teams had faced each other on eight occasions during the regular season with Ponce winning six of those games.
No matter who wins the championship series, the fact is that the big winners are the Puerto Rican fans who love the game of baseball, lost last year when the 2007-8 Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball Season was cancelled and are happy to see it return.