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Party on! Pensacola celebrates Monterrey series

Marlins affiliate, Mexican team reach out to community together
Fans stream across the field during the Piñata Run in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game. (Nino Mendez/Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
April 3, 2024

Technically, the Minor League season at non-Triple-A affiliates doesn’t begin until Friday. But at Double-A Pensacola, things got off to a bright and colorful start.

Technically, the Minor League season at non-Triple-A affiliates doesn’t begin until Friday. But at Double-A Pensacola, things got off to a bright and colorful start.

That definitely described the atmosphere Tuesday at Blue Wahoos Stadium as the Marlins’ affiliate opened a unique two-day international exhibition against Liga Mexicana de Beisbol’s Sultanes de Monterrey. As its Copa de la Diversión alternate identity, Pok-Ta-Pok, Pensacola played to a 1-1 tie amid a festival-type environment designed to grow the sport and further awareness of the vast Hispanic heritage in professional baseball.

“The exhibition games with the Sultanes hold significant importance as they showcase different cultures and also serve as a platform for sportsmanship and community engagement,” Pensacola general manager Steve Brice said. “Beyond the realm of sports, this game symbolizes unity, bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds to celebrate the spirit of competition and mutual respect. Moreover, it serves as an avenue for fans to create lasting memories and strengthen the bonds that tie communities together, highlighting the profound impact of sports.”

Pok-Ta-Pok was a Mesoamerican game played in the 16th century as a prelude to a ballgame. On Tuesday, it was demonstrated during the game as part of between-innings entertainment. Musicians, singers and dancers performed throughout the night. Wednesday’s finale will be followed by fireworks and a musical presentation.

Pensacola right-hander Kyle Tyler delivers a pitch during the game.Nino Mendez/Pensacola Blue Wahoos

Off the field, the teams had dinner together Monday night. On Tuesday morning, they visited two Pensacola schools to read specially created books in Spanish and teach the students about Pok-Ta-Pok. The school visits, which were sponsored by Nationwide, fueled excitement for the series opener between the teams. And anticipation extended back home in Mexico, with Monterrey arranging for the broadcast of the games.

“We share the same values,” Sultanes vice president Guillermo “Willie” Gonzalez said at the exhibition announcement in November. “We want to do the same the (Blue Wahoos) do as a team with the community. They went straight to our hearts. That’s why we’re here.”

Managed by former 14-year MLB outfielder Roberto Kelly, the Sultanes (pronounced Suel-tawn-ehs) aren’t the first Mexican League team to play MLB affiliates. Last weekend, the Double-A San Antonio Missions hosted the Saltillo Saraperos.

“This game was a monumental game for Pensacola and for Minor League Baseball,” Blue Wahoos vice president of creative communications Anthony Aspenson said. “Baseball is a universal language that everyone can understand when they come out to the ballpark. We are so grateful to be able to work with the Sultanes de Monterrey to make this special series possible.”

It has been a new experience for a Minor League team in this part of the country, with the Blue Wahoos seeking to further differentiate their exhibition series through community outreach and the special party atmosphere. And nowhere was that more evident than in the reaction of the Marlins prospects on the field.

"Being able to talk to them on the bases, seeing how they act ... they are the big leagues of Mexico, so seeing how they go about their business was a lot of fun," said Pensacola second baseman Cody Morissette.

Joe Trezza is an contributor for