Criollos and their fans enjoyed the ‘new’ Zola Morales

Caguas. Although the match was stopped for a while, even the rain could not dampen the excitement.

The Criollos returned to Yldefonso Solá Morales Stadium in style to open the 2022-23 season of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (LBPRC), and the historic venue looked like it had been built anew.

But in addition to the new facilities for visitors, there was also a ceremony at the altar that included figures from the past and a Creole dedication to the city’s favorite son: former four-division champion Miguel Cotto.

In front of a full house, the Criollos held a dedication ceremony for Cotto and had a select group of invited former players, among whom Hall of Fame members stood out, Eddie Murray And Ivan Rodriguez; Manager of the Boston Red Sox and Eternal Creole Alex Cora; I remembered Jerry Morales; Alexis Rios Y Luis ‘Vicho’ Figueroaamong others.

Additionally, Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres; President of the LBPRC, Juan Flores Calarza; and Commissioner of the Caribbean Professional Baseball Federation, Juan Francisco Buello Herrera.

“You can see the excitement in this renaissance in Puerto Rican baseball, especially in the Roberto Clemente League. I think it’s a great example for the future of this league,” Buelo Herrera said after the ceremony. “And these Caguas fans are very passionate and I know they will support the team. But above all, what I say to the mayor is that we must highlight their efforts to restore this stadium to its former glory.

Solá Morales watched by Puello Herrera and the thousands of fans who attended the opening game saw a new natural grass pitch and a fence with newly placed padding. A significant portion of the seats in the box section are new.

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Criollos de Caguas dedicated the season to former champion Miguel Cotto in a pre-game ceremony. (David Villafan Ramos)

In addition to the repair and remodeling of the roof and broadcasting and press booths, Sola Morales opened several canteens to expedite the purchase of groceries, and opened a small store with official team merchandise. Everything seems to have been freshly painted or freshly repaired.

Also, next to the Criollos’ clubhouse, an area was constructed with an indoor batting cage that included a weightlifting area.

“It’s huge,” Cora said. “Last year we played in the playoffs here. And the party was eventually spoiled by covid. Coming here, looking at this … apparently The municipality and Raul (Rodriguez, the owner), who have to do this, put Zola Morales in the best position. It’s so special to see a fanatic come together and have fun the way I do”.

Seeing Xola Morales in a situation diametrically opposed to what was left after Hurricane Maria in 2017, with a new lease of life, evoked in Cora the most precious and intimate memories of her lifelong relationship with the famous stadium.

“For me, there are more important things than being a player and a manager (Caguas). I came here with Papi (Jose Manuel Cora) when I was seven or eight years old…running around the broadcast booth…sleeping under the table during games…came here. I remember. I was made a man here. It was truly a special night.”

Ricardo Marrero and his eight-year-old son Ricardo Enrique also had a special night. Both attended opening night wearing Criollos’ hats and shirts.

“Everything is very good. They have more places to buy food, they have a shop, they have plenaros… I feel like a lot of effort has been put into entertaining the fans. It’s part of creating a family environment,” the father said, adding that he is committed to visiting all professional ballparks this season.

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Star right-hander Jose de Leon started the match on the mound for Criollos de Caguas.
Star right-hander Jose de Leon started the match on the mound for Criollos de Caguas. (David Villafan Ramos)

“I see it as a good marketing effort to diversify the fan base. And the more people, the better the atmosphere.

Ricardo Enrique is a young baseball player who, despite his Creole cap and shirt, is a fan of the Congrejeros de Santers, a knowing smile his father also exuded. “He’s a congrejero, but when the congrejeros aren’t playing, he’s a creole like his dad,” the elder said with a laugh.

Although rain at the start of the meeting delayed the start of the meeting, both seemed relaxed and comfortable with the Caguas experience.

“There has been a boom in basketball. Now the World Classic is coming up and let’s hope that continues in baseball,” Marrero concluded.

Eden Hayes

"Wannabe gamer. Subtly charming beer buff. General pop culture trailblazer. Incurable thinker. Certified analyst."

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