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An Old Matador Waves a Mean Bat in Mexico

Call him a Matador in Mexico. This summer, former Cal State Northridge baseball player Mike Solomon didn’t dodge beasts in the bullring, but he often played in a similar atmosphere as an outfielder for the Puerto Penasco Tiburones of the Double-A Noreste League.

“People down there take their baseball seriously,” said Solomon, an All-American who helped lead CSUN to the 1984 Division II national championship. “There were a few times when I was ducking rocks and glass (being thrown by spectators) around the dugout.”

Solomon, who played a year in the Seattle Mariners organization, was working out with a winter team managed by St. Louis Cardinals scout Ray King when he received the invitation to participate in the Mexican League. The league runs from May through August.

His debut in a Tiburones uniform was delayed a few days after he ran into a stingray while swimming in the ocean outside his beachfront apartment in Puerto Penasco, a fishing town about eight hours south of Tijuana. He lost a few at-bats, but picked up a new nickname--Manta.

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And so began Solomon’s odyssey through Mexico, where minor league bus rides are even more legendary than those in the United States.

“You travel on two-lane highways with nothing but buses and semis,” Solomon said. “If you stick your head out the window, it could end up going the opposite direction.”

Despite the discomforts, Solomon still batted .320, hit 2 home runs and drove in 45 runs. He was named to the all-star team.

“I want to keep playing and eventually get back to organized ball in the states,” Solomon said. “I want another opportunity.”

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Next season, however, Solomon plans on returning to Mexico and hopes to move up to Triple-A, which is the Mexican equivalent of the major leagues.

To make the jump, Solomon realizes he must bulk up his home run totals and his diet.


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