MESA —The Chicago Cubs are looking to bring more of a “fiesta” atmosphere to Sloan Park.
The sixth annual Mexican Baseball Fiesta, featuring three teams from the popular Mexican Baseball League, returns to Mesa in the fall after stops in Tucson and Hohokam Stadium.
“That’s so meaningful to us,” said Mike Feder, president of the Mexican Baseball Fiesta. “To show that our brand is worthy of playing in a Chicago Cubs stadium. I think that’s a big statement.”
A Mexican Baseball Fiesta game and a traditional major league one are night and day. The “Liga Mexicana del Pacifico” maintains a strong Mexican culture with live bands playing on the concourse and fans dancing during the game.
“It has a little bit more energy and a little more pizazz as you go through the game,” said Justin Piper, general manager of Sloan Park. “I think it’s great to see the mascots on the field and the music playing. After the final out a thousand-plus people stay and listen to the band.”
Three of the top teams from the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico will participate: Los Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Åguilas de Mexicali and the Cañeros de Los Mochis. In last year’s event, more than 3,000 fans attended at Hohokam.
The Cubs are one year removed from winning the World Series and have a large national fan base. Although the move won’t spark every Cubs fan in Arizona to show, the organization hopes to lure some.
“It’s the logo. I’m looking around the room right now and the Chicago Cubs press box says 1938. That’s special,” Feder said. “Not even just the name association but the quality of the stadium, the video board, the parking and everything is first class.”
Sloan Park is more commonly known as the venue for the Cubs spring training team, but it is used for other events.
“We look for a wide variety of events and the unique nature of the Mexican Baseball Fiesta makes it a perfect fit for the ballpark,” Piper said
Last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Hermosillo agreed to a major partnership deal that remains in place. According to Francisco Gamez, the founder and LLC partner of Mexican Baseball Fiesta, the fan base for Hermosillo is huge in the Valley and they even televise some of the games of Hermosillo in Phoenix.
Feder believes it is vital to keep the Mexican Baseball Fiesta in Mesa for the time being.
“If the Phoenix area is five million people,” Feder said, “What percent of that is Hispanic? I guess 30 percent, maybe greater.”
It is greater. In the latest U.S. census, Phoenix’s Hispanic population is 41 percent. Hispanics make up about 17 percent of the U.S. population.
Last year, the league held games in California and Texas and are scheduled to do the same in Las Vegas.
“The Vegas deal just closed out a couple of days ago,” Gamez said. “I told the owners it was a possibility and they were pretty excited when they got the news.”
The Mesa HoHoKams volunteers will also be partnering with the Mexican Baseball Fiesta by ushering fans to their seats and assisting in ticket check-in. They will also be charging $5 as a parking fee and use those proceeds to give back to the community.
“Giving it primarily to East Valley-based sporting organizations,” HoHoKam volunteer Tim Baughman said. “All sports related and all youth related. We give up to $500,000 back to the community.”
Visit Mesa, a sponsor for the Mexican Baseball Fiesta, believes playing host in Mesa is important as well.
“We’re so excited to have them back here,” said Suzanne Keller, Visit Mesa director of sports. “This is the third event they have had here (Mesa). It’s an out of-the-box kind of event and I want to make sure that they keep it here.”
The first game of the Mexican Baseball Fiesta at Sloan Park will be September 30th at 7:00 pm between Hermosillo and Los Mochis.