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MLB’s Mexico City Series Another Jewel In the Crown Of Mexican Baseball’s Greatest Patron

 Leif Skodnick  |    Apr 25th, 2023 3:40pm EDT

Alfredo Harp Helu (center) waves to fans during a Diablos Rojos de Mexico game on March 18, 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico. The team now plays in a stadium that bears his name. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Jam Media/LatinContent via Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

Look over the accomplishments and experiences of Alfredo Harp Helu, the namesake of the stadium where the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres will face off in Mexico City this weekend. 

A self-made billionaire and Mexico’s second-richest man, Harp Helu was the chairman of Mexico’s largest bank, Banamex, when it was bought out by Citigroup for $12.5 billion in 2001. He also founded Avantel, a telecommunications company in Mexico that was bought out by Axtel in 2006.

He owns two teams in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, the Guerreros de Oaxaca and the Diablos Rojos de Mexico, who play in Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, and became a minority owner of the San Diego Padres in 2012.

And perhaps most interestingly, he was held captive by kidnappers for 106 days in 1994 before he was released after his family paid $30 million in ransom.

It’s been quite a life for the 79-year-old, who’s lifelong love for baseball led to him buying his first LMB team, the Diablos Rojos, in 1995. The winningest team in LMB history, the Diablos Rojos have won the Serie del Rey, the LMB championship, 16 times, five of which came under Harp Helu’s ownership, and lost in the championship series another 17 times – which means that the franchise has appeared in more than one third of the Serie del Rey championship series ever played. 

“I relate everything to baseball,” Harp Helú told ESPN Mexico in a 2019 interview. Harp Helu was unavailable for comment for this piece. “My entire life is baseball. Love, family, work. It’s all baseball.”

By getting Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu built, he managed to find a home for Mexican baseball’s most historic franchise. The Diablos Rojos had played in Parque del Seguro Social from 1955 to 2000, and then moved to Foro Sol, a concert venue into which a baseball field could be shoehorned, where they played from 2001 through 2015. The team then moved to the 5,400 seat Estadio Fray Nano, a minor league park built in 1955, until Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu opened in 2019.

His other team, the Charros de Jalisco, played in Guadalajara, but were moved to Oaxaca City the next season, and won their only LMB championship a few years later, in 1998. Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico, is where Harp Helu has arguably had his biggest impact on Mexican baseball.

It’s there, at the Alfredo Harp Helu Baseball Academy, that high-end Mexican baseball talent is being developed. More than 600 players have gone on to play professional baseball in Mexico and abroad, including Major Leaguer Julio Urias, who starred on the mound for Mexico during the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

“I like to stay involved in baseball all year,” Harp Helu told the New York Times in 2013. “Out of season, I go to the academy.”

The academy opened in 2009, and aimed to develop talent from Oaxaca. Notably, the state produced Vinny Castilla, who hit more Major League home runs than any other Mexican player, but lagged far behind other Mexican states in producing baseball talent.

But the academy Harp Helu started has produced players playing across Latin America and the Major Leagues, and its impact cannot be understated.

“I think what he has built there is the No. 1 academy in Latin America,” Omar Minaya told the New York Times in 2013 when he was a senior vice president with the Padres. Minaya, a native of the Dominican Republic, became the first Latin American general manager in Major League Baseball with the Montreal Expos in 2003. He’s now a baseball operations advisor with the New York Yankees.

Since joining the Padres ownership group, Harp Helu’s academy has not only sent players to his two teams in the LMB, but to the Padres organization as well. 

When the Padres and the Giants faceoff at the stadium bearing his name, Alfredo Harp Helu will doubtlessly be smiling, having placed another jewel in the crown of Mexican baseball.

MLB Mexico City Series

Where: Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, Mexico City, Mexico
When: April 29, 6:05 p.m. EDT; April 30, 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MLB Network, Bally Sports San Diego (Padres telecast), NBCSN Bay Area (Giants telecast)
Live Updates will be available via World Baseball Network’s GameCast feature.