Nicaragua Baseball 2009-2010 Season Preview

2009-2010 is the fifth season of the Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League (Liga Nicaragüense de Beisbol Profesional [LNBP]). Professional baseball in Nicaragua dates back to 1956. The list of prominent players includes Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Kaat, Bert Campaneris, Mike Cuellar, and Marv Throneberry.

The LNBP didn’t have a season last year, because of financial problems with the Chinandega and Masaya teams. This year, the LNBP consists of three of the teams from 2007-2008: Bóer de Managua, Tigres de Chinandega, and Leones de Leon. Fieras del San Fernando (Masaya) has been replaced by Orientales de Granada. Bóer is the defending champion. The season starts October 23, and runs through January 10. The best-of-seven championship series takes place January 12-20.

Nicaraguans have a different idea of how to watch a baseball game. Teams have cheerleaders and pep bands, and the noise at games can be deafening. There are a lot of food vendors, selling pretty much any type of food available in Nicaragua, and the vendors are not restricted to the aisles. A cold beer at a Nicaraguan baseball game costs the equivalent of one dollar.

Here are details on the competing teams:

Bóer de Managua

Founded: 1905
Home games: Estadio Nacional Denis Martinez, Managua
Manager: Julio Sanchez
Key position players: C Juan Blandon, 1B Sandor Guido, 2B Mario Holmann, 3B Ronald Garth, SS Raul Marval (Venezuela)
Key pitchers: LHP Douglas Arguello, RHP Jorge Bucardo, RHP Gustavo Martinez (DR)
Notes: Arguello could be the next Nicaraguan to play in the Major Leagues. He has played in the Astros organization since 2004, and started 14 games for the AA Corpus Christi Hooks in 2009. Jorge Bucardo is in the Giants organization, had a record of 6-3, 2.64 ERA with the class A Salem-Keiser Volcanos in 2009, who won the Northwest League pennant. He was selected as the Northwest League’s premier RHP. Martinez led the league in 2007-2008 with ten saves. Holmann was in the Yankees organization from 2004 through 2007, got as high as AAA. Garth was in the Mariners organization from 2005 through 2009; his best season was 2005, when he batted .357 in the rookie Arizona League. Marval was in the Giants organization 1993-2000, played for Atlantic City Surf and the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic league 2003-2007, batted .338 in 2007 with the Riversharks.

Tigres de Chinandega

Home games: Estadio Efraín Tijerino, Chinandega
Manager: Davis Hodgson
Key position players: OF Yosvani Almario (Cuba), 3B Juan Oviedo, C Adolfo Matamoros
Key pitchers: RHP Miguel Pérez (Cuba), RHP Boanerges Espinoza, RHP Julio Raudez
Notes: Hodgson is the coach of the national team. Almario was drafted by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2004 MLB draft. He played for the Yuma Scorpions of the independent Golden League in 2007 and 2008, and the St. George RoadRunners of the Golden League in 2009. He batted .311 with eight home runs for the RoadRunners. Matamoros led the national team with a .421 average at the 2009 Baseball World Cup. Pérez was in the Mets organization in 2006, played for independent league teams in 2002 and 2003. Espinoza tied for the league lead in saves (11) in 2006-2007.

Orientales de Granada

Home games: Estadio Roque Tadeo Zavala, Granada
Manager: Omar Cisneros
Key position players: OF Danilo Sotelo, 3B Jimmy Gonzalez, OF Justo Rivas
Key pitchers: RHP Armando Hernandez, RHP Diego Sandino, RHP William Juarez
Notes: Sandino was 10-0 in 2007-08, with a 2.04 ERA. Sotelo led the league with 17 doubles, batted .290. Gonzalez was in the Dodgers organization 1998-2000, batted .316 for the Class A San Bernardino Stampede in 1999. He batted .332 for Boer in 2007-2008.
Rivas is considered the strongest hitter in the LNBP. Hernandez was in the Giants organization 2001-2003, and pitched a gem against the Dominican Republic in the 2007 Pan American games. He was 2-0, 2.31 in the 2008 Americas Baseball Cup. Juarez was in the Diamondbacks organization 2000-2004, and the Dodgers organization 2005-2007. He made 21 appearances for the class AAA Las Vegas 51s in 2007.

Leones de León

Home games: Estadio Héroes y Mártires, León
Manager: Roger Guillen
Key position players: OF Dwight Britton, 1B Brian Nichols (USA), OF Ramon Flores
Key pitchers: RHP Wilber Bucardo, LHP Oswaldo Mairena, RHP Jairo Pineda
Notes: Britton is in the Mariners organization, spent part of 2009 with the class A Clinton Lumber Kings. Nichols is from Decatur, GA, played for the Rio Grande Valley White Wings of the independent United League in 2009, batted .306 with 13 home runs. He has played for several other United League teams, and played for Alabama State in 2004.
Flores was signed by the Braves in the Spring of 2009, and batted .368 in the Dominican Summer League. Wilber Bucardo is in the Giants organization, had nine starts for the class A Salem-Keiser Volcanos in 2009, had a record of 4-1, 3.02 ERA. Mairena made two appearances for the Cubs in 2000, and 31 games for the Marlins in 2002. Pineda was in the Astros organization 1998-2002.

Article contributed by Robert Broughton