The Houston Astros defeated the Veracruz Rojos de Aguila (Red Eagles) 2-0 Saturday at Minute Maid Park. But no one really cared about the game score. The only number that mattered was the “A” for “attendance” at the very bottom of the box score. That number wasn’t nearly as large as officials from both teams, and both countries, had hoped.
The Mexican League is essentially a Triple-A-level baseball league, which makes it quite a bit more competitive than the other leagues in the Caribbean basin. Going into the game, there was some speculation of at least a partial merger between the Mexican League and one of the American Triple-A leagues, such as the International League or, more likely, the Pacific Coast League. Minor league baseball is extremely popular among fans: attendance exceeded 41 million last season. And teams in California, Arizona and Texas have quite a few followers on both sides of the border.
The day began with considerable fanfare and expectations. There was an afternoon reception for visiting officials from Veracruz, including Governor Javier Duarte. But the fact that there were so many empty seats Saturday night had to be a let-down. If major league owners were watching the attendance figures to see if a Mexican Triple-A club may be a good investment, they probably immediately put away their checkbooks.
Veracruz fans have one more chance to come out and show their support Sunday afternoon. But, barring a dramatic turnaround, it may be a while before the next Mexican League team comes north of the border.