Estadio La Rinconada in Caracas, Venezuela, will be the home of the Leones del Caracas in 2023-24.
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
With winter on the way, the Leones del Caracas are looking to defend their title in the Liga Venezolana de Beisbol.
In 2023, the Leones beat Tiburones de La Guaira in the LVBP championship series in six games last January. The club has won the most championships in LVBP history with 21 and won the Caribbean Series twice in 1982 and 2006.
Leonte Landino is the editor-in-chief of Diamante 23 and covers the LVBP, and he views Leones del Caracas as the favorites for this upcoming season.
“They were able to retain their coaching staff which is essential because they know how to play the game and navigate all the roster changes in the season,” Landino said. “Other teams are trying to revamp their coaching staff trying to find a good management staff and to understand what’s going on with the league while trying to find a group of players that will have good chemistry.
Landino also expressed how manager Jose Alguacil and hitting coach Lieso Nava have been a huge part of the success of Leones del Caracas.
Jose Alguacil, 51, was a minor league infielder in the Chicago White Sox, and San Francisco Giants organizations and played independent baseball from 1993 to 2001. He started working in the Giants organization in 2007 and he managed in their minor league system in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He was named the first base coach of their big league club for the 2017 season and left after 2019. The Kansas City Royals hired him in the offseason of 2022 as their infield coach. This will be his third season managing Leones del Caracas.
Lipso Nava, 54, was a minor-league infielder for the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs from 1990-1997. He played independent ball and in the winter leagues of Mexico and Venezuela from 1998-2007. He worked in the San Francisco Giants organization for 15 years and managed in their minor league system for five years as recently as 2022. Nava was named the bench coach for Leones del Caracas before the 2021-2022 season.
Leones del Caracas could also get some MLB talent later in their season, with Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres and Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suarez potentially coming to Caracas.
The LVBP will face a lot of challenges this season due to financial issues largely stemming from Venezuela’s greater economic crisis. The money for the league is provided by the government and oftentimes the money doesn’t come as fast as the league would like. It makes it tough to plan the schedule for the season, market, and sign players. Landino expanded on this and explained how the fans are viewing the season.
“The regular fan enjoys the game because it gives them a sense of normalcy. There’s not the huge enthusiasm as there was seven years ago. After 2015, a lot of things changed to the worst scenario,” Landino said “There’s mixed emotions in what baseball represents this season although the political turmoil wasn’t as bad as it was three to four years ago the economics are not back on track.”
Aracelis Leon is the federation president of the LVBP and also talked about the significance of the upcoming season for the country of Venezuela
“Baseball in Venezuela is a passion, it is a joy to the Venezuelan family. All Venezuelans feel excited because the league is about to start and being able to see players who give everything for their team generates many positive emotions in us. I wish success to all the teams that have been organizing their teams through their managers! God is good, baseball is a passion in Venezuela,” Leon said.
The first LVBP event this year will be a preseason series between Navegantes del Magallanes and Cardenales de Lara at Estadio Federación Peruana de Béisbol in Villa Maria del Triunfo district of Lima from October 13-15.
The winner of the regular season will represent Venezuela in the Caribbean Series in Miami. The Caribbean Series will take place from February 1-9 at loanDepot Park.
The 2024 Caribbean Series will be the first time the tournament will be held at a Major League Baseball stadium.
Venezuela is one of the original four nations that began the Caribbean Series in 1949, along with Panama, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.
“The Caribbean Series is a huge tradition in Venezuela, and the idea of it was born in Venezuela. The core of everything started there and it’s part of the plan for every team thinking about winning the LVBP championship, but the ultimate goal is winning the series,” Landino said. “Every team receives the same speech before the season, let’s win the Caribbean series.”
Landino also mentioned that the city of Miami is putting major league resources into the Caribbean Series and they want to replicate the WBC that took place this past March. Miami is a special place to host the Caribbean Series because of the Venezuelan presence and the series will bring a lot of enthusiasm and a good baseball environment.
At the end of the day, people will be rooting for the flag no matter which club comes out on top during the LVBP season.
The last time Miami hosted the Caribbean Series was in 1991 at Bobby Maduro Stadium, when Venezuela was represented by Cardenales de Lara. Miami also hosted the event in 1990 at the Orange Bowl, when Venezuela was represented by Leones del Caracas.
The LVBP regular season begins on October 21.
Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023
4 p.m EDT – Caribes de Anzoátegui vs Leones del Caracas
4 p.m EDT – Bravos de Margarita vs Cardenales de Lara
7 p.m EDT – Águilas del Zulia vs Navegantes del Magallanes
7 p.m EDT – Tigres de Aragua vs Tiburones de la Guaira