This article by Jorge Figueroa Loza was first published in Puerto Rican Spanish daily, El Nuevo Dia. It was edited and translated in English for our readers.
The 2023 Caribbean Baseball Series, will present a total of eight countries playing for the title, begins this afternoon in Caracas, with Puerto Rico debuting against Colombia.
Venezuela hosted the Caribbean tournament in 2014 on Island of Margarita and obtained the venue for 2019 but, days before the opening, the competition was moved to Panama due to the tense political situation in the South American nation at that time. The same thing happened in 2018, with the tournament moving to Mexico.
Puerto Rico, represented by the Indios de Mayagüez, will go in search of the seventeenth championship in the history of the contest and the third for the Sultana del Oeste franchise, under the leadership of veteran leader, Mako Oliveras.
Oliveras is one of five managers in Caribbean Series history to have won two championships.
Seven other clubs will participate in the tournament, with Colombia, Cuba and Curaçao as guests. Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are going as members of the Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation, the event’s organizing entity.
The Mayagüez Indians franchise is going to its 19th Caribbean Series, winning the 1978 and 1992 editions. Puerto Rico, as such, last lifted the trophy in 2018 with the Criollos de Caguas.
The Dominican Republic will be represented by the Tigres del Licey, top winners of the Dominican winter baseball with 23 championships and 10 Caribbean Series titles. They won their last in 2008. The Dominicans last celebrated in 2020 in San Juan.
The hosts will be the Leones del Caracas, also top league champions in their country with 21 titles. They won the Caribbean Series in 1982 and 2006. The Tigres de Aragua were the last team to give the Venezuelans the Caribbean title in 2009, the longest drought to date for a participant in the event.
From Mexico the Cañeros de Los Mochis will play. The ninth won the fourth title in its history in the Mexican Pacific League. The Aztecs were champions for the last time in 2014, precisely, on Venezuelan soil.
Cuba returns to the tournament after a three-year absence. In Venezuela, the Farmers will represent Cuba. The Cubans last won in 2015 in Puerto Rico with the Vegueros de Pinar del Río.
Panama returns with the Federales of Chiriquí. The country surprised in 2019 with the scepter won by the Herrera Bulls in Panama City, the first since 1950.
Last year, Colombia also surprised with its first crown, thanks to the Caimanes de Barranquilla. For this edition they go with the Vaqueros de Montería.
For 2023, Curaçao was invited, the first time in the contest. The team is called Wildcats KJ74.
In the initial phase, all the teams will play each other for a total of seven games, from day 2 to day 8. There will be no rest days. The first four teams in the top advance to the semifinals. The first place will play against the fourth and the second against the third for the pass to the final. The semifinals will be played on February 9 and the final on February 10.
Venue of the event
For the first time in the history of the Caribbean Series, two states will serve as venues for the competition.
In Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, the La Rinconada Stadium (named the Simón Bolívar Monument of Caracas) will open, with a capacity for 40,000 people.
The second park used will be El Fórum La Guaira, which has 14,500 seats and an attractive view of the sea. In the games will be played in both stadiums simultaneously during the initial phase.
The team with the largest presence of Major League players will be Curaçao, which will use the Caribbean Series as preparation for the World Baseball Classic with the Netherlands. Major league names Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Schoop and Jurickson Profar stand out. There’s also veteran slugger Wladimir Balentien, who cracked his bat in the 2017 Classic.
Puerto Rico has the third baseman of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Emmanuel “El Pulpo” Rodríguez, who is also expected to be part of the Puerto Rican team for the Classic. Vimael Machín, a former member of the Oakland Athletics and now with a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, is also part of the group. The team also has the Most Valuable Player of the Puerto Rican winter league, Edwin Díaz, and the batting champion Rubén Castro.
The Tigres del Licey will have veteran major leaguers Robinson Canó as reinforcement. They will be without the Most Valuable Player of the Finals, catcher Jorge Alfaro, a recent signing from the Boston Red Sox.
The Leones del Caracas, who just won the championship, did not have a defined staff at the close of this edition. Of the champion team, the infielder Orlando Arcia, World Series champion with the Atlanta Braves in 2021, stands out.
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