Before there was Fernandomania in Major League Baseball, there was simply Fernando Valenzuela in the Mexican Baseball League.
The left-hander got his start in his home country, getting his feet wet in professional ball for two years before drawing the attention of the Dodgers. And now, 38 years later, Valenzuela is returning the favor to the league that helped shape him, reports MiLB.com, a baseball news website.
A group of investors headed by the Cy Young Award winner agreed to purchase Cancun’s Quintana Roo Tigres, a franchise in the Mexican League, from team owner Carlos Peralta.
“Minor League Baseball would like to acknowledge the Peralta family for over 60 years of dedicated service to the Mexican League. Only two men from the Mexican League have ever claimed the King of Baseball Award, and both had a hand in this franchise (Alejo Peralta in 1967 and Cuauhtemoc “Chito” Rodriguez in 2011), so this is certainly a passing of the torch in the Mexican League,” Minor League president Pat O’Connor said in a statement. “We are pleased to have a baseball legend like Fernando Valenzuela joining the ownership ranks in Quintana Roo and are glad the Tigers name will continue on with the franchise.”
At Sunday’s press conference, Peralta said he valued the opinions of fans who wanted the team to remain in Quintana Roo and were fearful of losing the Tigres tradition. He added that because the group has proven their love of baseball and developmental plans for the City of Cancun, he decided to sell the team and rights to the name “Tigres.”
The team was founded in 1955 in Mexico City, moved to Angelopolis in 2002 and then moved to Cancun, Quintana Roo in 2007. The franchise has won three of the last seven league championships, most recently in 2015.
After leaving the Mexican League, Valenzuela spent two seasons in the Dodgers’ Minor League system. “El Toro,” who served as a cultural icon — particularly for Latin players — since his rookie season, went on to win a World Series in 1981 and pitch a no-hitter in 1990 with Los Angeles, accumulating six All-Star selections then went on to play for the Angels (1991), Orioles (’93), Phillies (’94) San Diego Padres (’95-97) and Cardinals (’97).
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