So there I was, surrounded by over 20 hefty blokes wielding baseball bats. But I was in good company, these diamond geezers were sporting heroes from Puerto de la Cruz. Tenerife Marlins have dominated Spain’s Division of Honour, winning the elite league for the last five seasons. The club has scoured the world to add to their strength for the new campaign and has a thriving youth programme with over 100 local youngsters yearning to pull on the teal and blue shirts.
It was all go at the council owned El Burgado ground, just past Loro Park, as I arrived for one of the daily three hour training mornings. The grass verges were being trimmed, the surround walls were getting a coat of paint and the players” benches were also getting a spruce-up ready for the opening game on 27th February.
Nestor Perez Junior combines the roles of manager, player and driving force of the Marlins, and his father Nestor Perez guides the youth development and is an international scout for American Major League Baseball club Atlanta Braves. Four current Marlins will be off to join up with the Braves club in May, Deoin Galvan has already seen his brother Lesther gain experience with Minnesota Twins.
Nestor Junior clued me in on the current team roster ” we have 25 players, a mix of 17 and 18 year olds, mainly local with a sprinkling of more experienced professionals. The league allows five non European Community players but we can only play three at any time.”
The Marlins are certainly doing their bit at national level, 12 of their players just failed to get Spain through the 2008 pre Olympic qualifying tournament in Taiwan. There is a new input of experience this season. Luis Landaeta is a real slugger who spent last season with Magallanes in the Venezuelan Professional League; Javier Flores from Asturia is a former Spain international and joins from San Boi; Jorge Balbao is a former Barcelona pitcher fresh from the Italian League and Nguyen Boulet Diaz had six years in the Cuban leagues before starring for Mortsel Stars in Belgium last season.
With all that hard hitting talent around, I didn’t need telling twice to keep my head down as I snapped photos around the protective netting. The pitchers took turns to try to conjure the ball past the hitter as the catcher squatted, ready to snatch the speeding projectile as it flashed by the bat. Some shots were still being peppered around the diamond and even out into the car park.
Being out on a limb geographically, Tenerife Marlins usually play two games in succession each week to reduce travelling costs; an extra pressure as well as everyone wanting the champions” scalps. There’s no letting up at the season’s end, June brings the European Cup during a week long contest in Rotterdam against fully professional opponents.
The youth development is particularly rewarding for the club. They were swamped with 6 to 12 year olds in January for the La Liga Big Show and are staging a European Academy from 1st to 9th April for 15 to 18 year olds. Nestor Perez Junior has also started independent training sessions down south in Las Galletas and already has 68 minnows learning the sport. With such a productive spawning ground, Tenerife Marlins should be making a big splash for many years to come.
- Tenerife Marlins
- Spanish Division Of Honour
- GROUND – El Burgado, Puerto de la Cruz
- GAMES ““ Sat or Sun at Noon
- FREE ENTRY
- YOUTH PROGRAMME ““ Contact (in Spanish or English) Nestor Perez Junior, [email protected]
NEXT MARLINS HOME GAMES
Sat. 27th Feb v San Inazio, Noon, 2 games
Sat. 13th March v FC Barcelona, 10am, 2 games
Sat. 3rd April v Astros, 11am, 2 games