Aaron Kurcz, Carlos Hernández, and Tyson Pérez of the Tijuana Toros at their home field, Estadio Chevron. Photography by Jake Michaels

Home and Away: American Ballplayers Are Flooding the Mexican League

A recent rule change allows American-born players to go pro in Mexico—and they’re fielding a familiar backlash

Estadio Chevron, with a capacity of 17,000, sits less than two hours south of Petco Park, the San Diego Padres’ stadium, which can hold more than 40,000 fans.
Tijuana Toros players and coaches during batting practice.
When Barreda signed with the Tijuana Toros in 2015, he was the team’s only Mexican American player on the 40-man roster. Today, the team has more non-native players than any other franchise in the league.
A band provides music for an after-party in the parking lot of Estadio Chevron.
A Toros employee makes ceviche in the dugout for the players before the game. A vendor sells hamburgers outside the stadium.
The Toros are the Liga franchise who recruit the most aggressively across the northern border. Tyson Pérez (left) is from California, Logan Watkins (center) is from Wichita, Kansas; and Aaron Kurcz (right), is from Las Vegas, Nevada.

The 2016 rule change has made the league more competitive, but it’s changed the face of Mexican baseball in the process.

James Russell (left), from Texas, is one one of the team’s six foreign players; Carlos Hernández (right) is from California. This season, Toros Press Officer Armando Esquivel estimates that some 30% of the Liga Mexicana is Mexican American.
Toros cheerleaders during a night game at the Estadio Chevron.

‘Pocho’ can be a slur for a Mexican American who’s cast aside his culture. In the Liga Mexicana of 2019, it’s become close to the standard term for any Mexican American import to the league.

The crowd at a Toros game in August 2019.
Juan Carlos Chávez, the Toros team driver, crosses the border four times a day during the season.

Why wouldn’t a city defined by the border have a baseball club defined by it as well?

Players make their way back to the United States after a game. It takes 35 minutes to get from Imperial Beach, where many of them live, to Estadio Chevron.

Barreda understands why some native players are upset that Americans are coming south and taking their jobs.

The Toros celebrate a win at home in August.

An LA-based journalist, with writing in Wired, Medium and New York Magazine.

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