Though Major League Baseball’s owners continue to lock out the players, you can still watch Pablo Sandoval and other current and former Giants and A’s playing this weekend and next week — and in a stadium that honors Juan Marichal.
The annual Serie del Caribe (English translation: Caribbean Series), played between the champions of six winter leagues throughout Central and South America, begins on Friday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The six nations represented are the hosts, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
For Bay Area baseball fans, several former Giants and A’s will play in the week-long tournament, highlighted by 2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval (Venezuela), who played this winter for his hometown team, the Navigantes del Magallanes (English translation: Magellan Navigators) of Valencia. The “Kung-Fu Panda” last played in the Venezuelan winter league in 2012-13 before returning this winter, helping Magallanes win their first Venezuelan title since 2013-14.
Last year, Sandoval started the season with the Braves as a pinch-hit specialist, hitting four pinch-hit homers in the first 33 games of the season. But he cooled off quickly, batting 1-for-27 in June and July before Atlanta traded him on July 30 to Cleveland, who immediately released him. While the 34-year-old didn’t play stateside again in 2021, he hit .314 with one homer in 123 plate appearances for Magallanes in an attempt to get a 2022 contract, either with an MLB team (likely in the form of a minor league deal with an invite to big league spring training) or perhaps with a team in another country (like Japan, South Korea or Mexico).
In addition to Sandoval, the Venezuelans have the most former Bay Area major leaguers, with former A’s pitcher Henderson Alvarez, former Giants outfielder Alejandro De Aza and former Giants right-handed reliever Enderson Franco suiting up. They’ll be looking to win Venezuela’s first Caribbean crown since 2009.
Current A’s infielder Vimael Machín is suiting up for Puerto Rico this week, while left-handed Reymind Guduan, who pitched in 11 games for the A’s in 2021, will play for the Dominican Republic. The host Dominicans will also have former A’s and Giants left-handed reliever Fernando Abad pitching for them as they attempt to win the country’s third Serie del Caribe title in a row.
The games will be played at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal, the main ballpark in the Dominican Republic’s capital city that’s hosting its 10th Serie del Caribe. Marichial’s name was added to the stadium in 2016 to honor the first Dominican-born player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The tournament is a round robin, where all six teams will face each other once each day from Friday until Tuesday. The top four teams in the round-robin advance to the semifinals on Wednesday and the winners of the semifinals play for the championship on Thursday.
For the first five days, games will be played at 6 or 6:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific. The semifinals on Wednesday will be at 1 and 4 p.m. and Thursday’s championship starts at 3 p.m. Pacific. All games will be broadcast on ESPN Deportes in Spanish.
Each nation is generally represented by the team that won each league’s championship, but they can also add players from the other teams in their league to play for them. The most prominent such player this year is for the host Dominicans, who added former eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano to the champion Gigantes del Cibao. And for those who don’t know, the team named the Giants in the Dominican Republic plays in … the town of San Francisco de Macoris. Their colors have even been orange and black at times, but they presently wear maroon and black.
Negotiations between the owners and player’s association continued this week, as the two sides met on Monday and Tuesday. But they still appear far apart on key issues, leaving doubts as to when the lockout could end and if spring training — or even regular-season games — will be impacted.
That doubt means that the Serie del Caribe may be the last live professional baseball fans can watch on television for a while.