01/07/2004 2:16 PM ET
Ambassador to Mexico a big fan
MEXICO CITY -- United States Ambassador Antonio Garza, who's job is to act as a bridge between President George W. Bush and the country of Mexico, has love for the two countries he serves and the sports that are played within them.
So it should come as no surprise that Garza is a strong supporter of bringing Major League Baseball into Mexico, something that was discussed as an option for the Expos this offseason. Carlos Bremer and Jose "Pepe" Maiz -- the former a financial wiz who can supply investors and capitol, the latter the owner of one of the oldest construction companies in Northern Mexico, the stadium Estadio Monterrey and the Monterrey Sultanes of the Mexican League -- made the push to bring the Montreal franchise to the city of Monterrey.
Together, Bremer and Maiz made a solid effort to bring MLB to Mexico, but eventually lost out to incumbent Puerto Rico. Garza expressed his thoughts on baseball, his two countries and the efforts of Bremer and Maiz in an exclusive interview with MLB.com in his office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico's capital city.
What are your thoughts on bringing Major League baseball to Mexico?
Garza: I think it would be great. I think Major League Baseball will find not only a fan base, but a very knowledgeable group that loves the game and has a passion for it. In terms of opportunity for expansion, Mexico represents a great potential market.
Can baseball be a bridge between the two countries?
Garza: I think in terms of what some might characterize as "soft diplomacy," I think there is an opportunity to rally around similar interests. Whether that be baseball, or sports generally, or the arts of cultural events, when people have the opportunity to see each as human beings and have the opportunity to enjoy something they both have passion for, it creates an understanding between people that then makes resolving difficult issues a little bit easier. Because you are now dealing with friends and as people you share something in common with. I think there is real opportunity for that sort of diplomatic growth associated with baseball. Some of our best ambassadors have been baseball players. They travel around the world and play in cities around the globe explaining the qualities of sportsmanship.
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Are there any misconceptions or stereotypes about Mexico?
Garza: If there are stereotypes about Mexico, then it is definitely changing. The efforts of people like Pepe Maiz and Carlos Bremer are part of the changing and the educating of Americans about the opportunities in Mexico. More Americans are traveling to Mexico and seeing a very modern country with great traditions and incredible cultural offerings. I am struck by the number of Americans who don't realize there is so much in Mexico.
What is your impression of the city of Monterrey?
Garza: I have enjoyed all of Mexico, but I have to admit to loving Monterrey. It was my parents' first stop on their honeymoon in the late 1940s. I visited there as early as three or four years old and I have gone back a number of times. I am not objective because I happen to love Monterrey. I find the people there very warm and open and friendly. One of my grandparents is from of the state of Nuevo Leon so you are asking somebody who is already in love with Monterrey about the city.
What are your thoughts on the efforts of Carlos Bremer and Jose "Pepe" Maiz?
Garza: I get excited just being around them. Although I do not know Pepe well, to hear stories of his comeback to the mound and his sense of eternal youth and optimism, you see the magical assets of baseball. (Note: At the moment, Maiz, 59, is undergoing massage therapy to treat his ailing arm so he can pitch in the Veteran's League again --he once won 40 consecutive games over a span of six seasons.) To hear (Pepe's story) is almost like a "Field of Dreams"-type story. There is something about baseball that keeps us all young. To be around Carlos is to be around somebody who is high energy and obviously very successful in business, but he loves the game. Even if you are not a baseball person, you get excited being around them. Ultimately, however the effort (to bring MLB) goes down, Pepe and Carlos will succeed because the people that see them and spend time around them realize they are two class guys who care a lot about the game and love their city. Regardless of the decision, long-term, there will be baseball in Mexico.
You are an avid sports fan. Is President Bush, one of your closest friends, as big a baseball fan as he is often portrayed?
Garza: He's a big sports fan. No doubt, he is a Rangers fan. He enjoys the game generally in every sense of the word. He enjoys the game, the history and the traditions of the game. When he has time you can bet he has a ballgame on television. My guess is that he is watching less baseball than a few years ago, but if he has a free moment, it's very likely there is a game on.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.