This interview with the president of the El Llano Baseball Club which play in Spain’s top league, Division de Honor, shares his inside point of view on Spanish baseball with the International Baseball Community.
Q: Where are some of the most beautiful cities in Spain to play baseball?
A: Barcelona is the most important city in Spain for Spanish baseball. There are 3 teams of Honor Division with 3 nice stadiums. Tenerife is a beautiful Island in the Canary Islands. Puerto de la Cruz is the base of the 2013 champion of the Honor Division, Marlins de Puerto de la Cruz. Nice weather, nice place. But Spain is very different all around. The north is really “green” and so beautiful… Great food, nice cities… Pamplona, Bilbao, Gijon… Good people. Valencia is in the south west. A beautiful city and now with anew baseball stadium.
Q: Which are the nicest baseball stadiums?
A: There are some good baseball stadiums. Each are improving every year which is good for Spanish Baseball. In the Honor division, 4 turf fields. Bilbao for 2 years, this year Valencia, Tenerife and Pamplona. The other fields are natural grass. Viladecans stadium, is an Olympic Stadium that was built for 1992 Olympic games. It’s a great Stadium, along with Montjuic, both in Barcelona. The new Stadium of Valencia, seems to be another excellent addition, but I can’t say too much as I have yet to see it. Tenerife is in the Canary Islands, and that alone speaks for this stadium… But maybe, one of my favorites, is Sant Boi. Good bar, that looks out over the field, which adds another dimension to a baseball stadium!! There is a new project for a brand new stadium in Gijon, which will be a baseball complex with 2 fields and batting cage, clubhouse, etc… It could be a great project. They are talking a 3 year time frame for the stadium.
Q: Is the Spanish Division de Honor a competitive league or do the same teams usually compete for the championship?
A: Of course, like in all leagues, there are few teams that have the potential (money) and other factors that allow them to “play like they can…” There is a big crisis in Spain at this time and this is for all the teams in all sports. So this year, there were not as many foreign players in the league. Teams like Barcelona, the Marlins, Bilbao, Beisbol Navarra and Valencia, had good teams. Maybe not at the same level as 2012, but still good baseball. There are 3-4 teams that will always “fight” for the championship. Barcelona (champion in 2012) and Tenerife (champion for 2013). Sant Boi, always a contender. Valencia (regular league champion in 2012 but lost in playoffs against Barcelona). Bilbao normally has good teams also but sometimes looks “irregular”… Gijon were champions of “Kings Cup” in 2008. But the financial crisis has affected much of their budget. This year they played with” our own players”. No import players at all. So that’s a point against…
Q: How much importing of baseball players and coaches is there in Spain? What are the backgrounds of the typical import player? Pro? College? Are they usually of Spanish heritage and are able to obtain a Spanish passport?
A: All the teams have import players. In the past some teams had mostly import players. The league only allows 5 foreign players and only 3 on the field at the same time. But there are import players with Spanish nationality backgrounds and they have a place on a Spanish team for sure. Normally, a lot of Latin players, mostly from Venezuela. A Lot of these players came to play baseball with Spanish teams and over the years they stayed and work and live in Spain. They have assisted in raising the level of baseball. There are a few import coaches. They often coach at all levels for their clubs and that has proven beneficial for Spanish baseball.
Q: What contracts can an import player to Spain typically expect? Paid flight? Apartment?
A: It depends on the club they will play for… There are teams that can pay all this and a salary. Others, can pay only salary and lodging, but not travel expenses. Some teams can pay lodging and meals and nothing more. Some players come to improve their stats for other leagues such as Venezuela. Others are searching for a new adventure in another country after finishing college. A pro player looks for other things and they can play for the top teams.