What does it say about a community that can’t or won’t commit to just 1,000 tickets at $5 each in order to be a host for the Mexican Baseball Fiesta, an annual event that brings Mexican Pacific League teams to play games in the United States in the fall?

Nogales is a baseball town and it shouldn’t be hard to drum up interest for this. But Councilman Jorge Maldonado announced last week that Nogales will not host any games here. Maldonado, who is also a Nogales National Little League board member, said he’d been in discussions with event organizers. Unlike previous years, he said, the organization wanted Nogales to guarantee that minimum level of ticket sales in addition to taking care of the field, security and other costs.

So what?

Maldonado’s past two campaigns for City Council have centered on his ability to attract soccer, basketball and baseball leagues to Nogales. All he needed in order to pull this one off was to get 1,000 of the 1,626 people who voted for him in the last election to shell out $5 each. Otherwise, businesses in the community would surely have stepped up to the plate. I know the NI would have pitched in to drum up support, but we were never asked. These events are economic drivers that we cannot afford to let fall through the cracks.

I remember how the late Joe Canchola, founder of the local McDonald’s franchise, brought Major League Baseball exhibition games to Nogales each year. He paid for the buses to bring the teams to Nogales and provided a free meal after the game. To make sure the grounds at War Memorial Stadium met Major League standards, he paid the groundskeepers at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson to come help put the field in shape.

The tradition continued with a more Mexican flavor and in 2013, Antonio Aguilera, acting manager of the Mayos de Navojoa at the time, told the NI that the Nogales tournament was especially good practice because it pitted pros against pros and because it involved playing on a quality field.

“It’s always important when we play exhibition games to play in good parks, and this is a park that has all of the favorable conditions for a player,” Aguilera said. “It’s a well-done field, which helps to prevent injuries to the players.”

Thanks to the upkeep by the folks at the Nogales Parks and Recreation Department, we have a field that is worthy of professional play. But we can’t commit to selling just 1,000 tickets?

To his credit, Maldonado has historically volunteered and advocated for sports events and better playing fields and that’s why it is hard to wrap our brains around this situation. He once told the NI that, “I bring in as many tournaments I can for the community. I really don’t see the financial results myself, but from what I hear from everybody, it’s been a great asset to the community.”

Yes it has, Jorge and thank you. But in this case, Nogales bobbled the ball.

(Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International. Contact him at publisher@nogalesinternational.com.)

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