Mexico City embraces MLB for games, more

Two-game Astros-Padres series features clinics, celebrations

Mexico City embraces MLB for games, more

MEXICO CITY -- The kids came in all shapes and sizes, wearing baseball uniforms as colorful as the streets surrounding The Zocalo, the main square in central Mexico City. The once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn a few tips from Major League players brought smiles to the faces of the children, and even to the players.

Major League Baseball turned the Plaza de la Constitucion into a baseball festival on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Players from the Astros and Padres took part in baseball clinics before the first game of the two-day Mexico City Series -- an 11-1 Astros victory -- while mascots danced, fans cheered and the heart of Mexico City celebrated baseball around a makeshift field that blanketed the square.

Astros light up scoreboard in Mexico City

"It's important to bring a product here to get Mexican fans to see the game live and in person," said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "Secondly, I know there are a lot of great players here in Mexico. One of the topics of conversation last summer with the professional leagues here was how to facilitate more Mexican players playing in Major League Baseball. A greater presence of Mexican players in Major League Baseball will increase the strength of the ties between fans here in Mexico and our great game in the United States."

Check out photos of the Zocalo clinic

"It's great being here in the middle of the city and getting to work with some of these kids," said Padres catcher Austin Hedges, who got down in a crouch and showed a young group of players proper catching technique. "Just the excitement they have and the love for the game of baseball, it's been great to be a part of."

Astros infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who's from Venezuela, appeared to revel in the chance to show the players the finer points of playing the middle infield. He was incredibly at ease with the players while talking to them in Spanish about the game.

"It's my first time in the country, and I'm really loving it," he said. "I think it's a great experience, a good opportunity to show the kids the way to the big leagues, to show Mexico some big league baseball. I hope we put on a good show. I'm happy to be here and sharing some time with these kids."

Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said events like the one MLB staged Saturday are vital to help grow the game outside the United States, especially with the youth. While soccer remains Mexico's pastime, the dozens of kids wearing baseball uniforms in the heart of Mexico City on Saturday was a clear indication of the popularity of the sport.

"I think it's fantastic," Clark said. "The weather has cooperated, the fans have been tremendous, the kids have been outstanding and the players have been great. The excitement that's built over the course of the last couple of days for this event has been great."

Padres outfielder Jon Jay hopes he was able to have an impact on a few of the kids.

"It's been great to be able to spread the game of baseball here in Mexico and just have impact in other places besides the United States," he said. "It's always great to grow the game of baseball."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.