MLB sees opportunity for growth in Mexico

MLB sees opportunity for growth in Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- This weekend's Mexico City Series could set the stage for Major League Baseball having a bigger presence in Mexico City, including the possibility of hosting regular-season games, and perhaps even being home to a Major League team one day, Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Saturday.

Manfred, who made his second trip to Mexico since becoming Commissioner to attend this weekend's games between the Astros and Padres, said MLB has a goal to grow the game internationally, and Mexico has important dynamics into which the league hopes to tap.

"We consider Mexico to be a viable market for Major League Baseball," he said. "We think there's tremendous opportunity here, particularly from a broadcast perspective. It would be on a short list of markets outside of the United States that would be possible for the Major Leagues."

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Manfred said when considering Mexico City as a possible home to a Major League team, it's important to remember the timeframe. The league currently has no plans to expand. He said while it may be conceivable to have a team in Mexico City some day, there are challenges such as travel, altitude (7,200 feet) and security.

"I think it's important to focus on the biggest picture," he said. "We want to grow the game internationally. The end point of growing the game internationally is franchises in other countries, and we need to be prepared to deal with the challenges that other countries present."

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Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was born and raised in Mexico City, said Mexico City and Monterrey could be viable homes to Major League clubs if they had suitable stadiums. He said Mexico's middle class is growing, and there's enough interest in baseball in either city to support a team.

"Logistically, I think it works market-wise, and the synergies to the U.S. are absolutely there," he said. "I'm more than hopeful. I'm bullish on there being a team in Mexico some time in the next 20 years."

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Manfred also discussed the possibility of Mexico hosting regular-season games. He met with the owners of the winter and summer leagues in Mexico last year in Culiacan, which has a new stadium that Manfred says is a viable host for games. A new stadium for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico is in the works that could host Major League games as well. They currently play at Fray Nano, home of this weekend's Mexican Series.

"It's important to bring a product here to get Mexican fans to see the game live and in person," Manfred said. "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."

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On Monday, MLB will open an office in Mexico City that will direct the league's business in the country. The league has hired Rodrigo Fernandez to serve as managing director. He will manage local business and market development.

"We thought that the time had come, that our business here was significant, that our plans for the future for playing in Mexico were big enough that it was important to have an office here in Mexico, and we see it as a major step forward for us," Manfred said.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, called the possibility of Mexico having a Major League team "intriguing."

"As well as the industry has been doing, the next conversation is what can we do next to continue to grow, and you realize Mexico City is an option to do just that," he said. "The game has been growing tremendously, both domestically and internationally, and as we continue to have more games abroad, you realize there are opportunities that exist that may have not existed before, and Mexico is one of those."

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.