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D-backs impressed with new stadium in Mexico

HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- With a ballclub that plays just 350 miles away from this small town in North Mexico, Arizona Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall knows the importance of getting involved in this region. It's why his team has played several Spring Training games in Hermosillo before, and why Hall was so captivated by the construction of the brand new Estadio Sonora, where the Caribbean Series is being held this year.

"It's very important for us to play here and to have a presence here because we feel like there are so many Diamondback fans in [the Mexican state of] Sonora," Hall said in a press conference in front of mostly Mexican media Wednesday. "We're grateful for all of our fans here; we want to make sure we play in front of them as often as we can. We feel like this is our home -- at least our second home."

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The D-backs have previously played nine Spring Training games at the now-vacant Hector Espino Baseball Stadium. Now, they'll look to utilize the new ballpark -- a $31 million investment that seats 16,000 fans -- as early as 2014.

The D-backs have been present throughout the seven-day tournament that served as Estadio Sonora's grand opening. On Monday, special assistant and former outfielder Luis Gonzalez hosted a clinic for about 50 youth players at a nearby field. On Tuesday, Roland Hemond, who's partly in charge of enhancing the club's initiatives in Mexico, threw out the first pitch. And on Wednesday, Hall came to Sonora to tour the finished product himself.

"It's beautiful," Hall said. "It reminds me of Salt River Fields."

The D-backs will be hosting Pool D of the World Baseball Classic's first round -- consisting of Mexico, Italy, Canada and the U.S. -- at their Spring Training site of Salt River Fields and their Major League venue, Chase Field, beginning March 7. The D-backs will also host Team Mexico in an exhibition game March 5.

Stadium organizers very much want the D-backs to play regular-season games at Estadio Sonora, perhaps an Opening Day. For that to happen, the capacity would have to increase to 30,000 to 35,000 to make up for lost attendance. Hall said this stadium is capable of such expansion and could see that happening down the road.

In the immediate future, though, is another Spring Training visit.

"We would definitely like to be back," Hall said. "We knew this would be a very difficult year, with the Caribbean Series [at Estadio Sonora] and the World Baseball Classic [partly in Phoenix]. We'll have those discussions shortly about returning, hopefully next spring. We'll see if that will work."

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