Content Warning: Rape, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.
When I first got into unaffiliated baseball I gravitated towards the top leagues in Mexico. It made sense, both the summer Liga Mexicana de Béisbol and winter Liga Mexicana del Pacífico are high-level leagues that are full of talented players and plenty of names I already knew. They have also been fairly easy to watch these past six or so years. However, there have always been reasons beyond the baseball being played that have made the leagues themselves hard to champion. On the one hand that’s par for the course because professional baseball teams are owned by fairly scummy individuals and league offices are run by rather shady folk no matter the league or level. On the other hand, when both leagues seem unwilling to give two shits about the women who watch them, that becomes a more pervasive problem.
As I am typing this, Leones de Yucatán just lost in a thrilling game 7 of the Serie del Rey Had they won, chances are that the man making the final out for the Leones would have been Josh Lueke. That’s the same Josh Lueke who in 2008 pleaded no contest to false imprisonment with violence in an effort to avoid a charge of rape and non-consensual sodomy. He did avoid those charges, but that doesn’t change the fact that he admitted to actions that constituted rape.
Then there is the poster boy for this year’s LMB season, Addison Russell. The stories of Russell’s violence against his former partner included years of emotional and physical abuse. Russell never admitted to his actions, but he accepted his Major League Baseball suspension and underwent counseling for the accusations against him. This isn’t a court of law, so let’s call what Russell did exactly what he did; he admitted to his actions without actually admitting to his actions. Then this year he was brought into LMB where he had a great season, is a potential Most Valuable Player candidate, and has parlayed his success into an LMP contract this winter.
None of that compares to the opportunities afforded by both leagues to Luke Heimlich. A highly decorated college pitcher, Heimlich found himself without an avenue for a professional baseball career after every MLB team passed on him and the main office for Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League barred his signing with a team. The reason; Heimlich had been convicted as a teenager of sexually assaulting his niece. Knowing this, Driveline Baseball continued to train Heimlich and it was at one of their pro days where an LMB team saw him and signed him. The LMB main office didn’t bat an eye and neither did the LMP front office when he signed with one of their teams the following winter. Heimlich has not pitched for either league, or in baseball at all, since the 2019-2020 season. However, that’s not because either league took action based on his crime, he simply pitched horribly in both leagues and was not brought back.
The toxic hiring practices and culture of the two top Mexican leagues aren’t exclusive to players. LMB’s Toros de Tijuana gave a managerial job to Omar Vizquel in 2019. They allowed him to stay in that position even as allegations of vicious assault were brought against him by his wife. Details emerged of him beating, pushing her, and physically forcing her to sign documentation that he did not in fact do those things. The Toros and LMB didn’t care though, not until accusations emerged that Vizquel had sexually assaulted an autistic batboy while he was manager of the Birmingham Barons. Now a line had been crossed in the hypermasculine culture of Mexican professional baseball. Violence and rape against women the leagues can deal with, but against another man, or boy, that’s too much. At least, it’s too much to stay in a public position as the Toros didn’t fire Vizquel as manager when the allegations broke they simply reassigned him to an internal position.
I could go on, there are many more examples, like Yasiel Puig and Roberto Osuna signing with LMB clubs this season (and Osuna likely signing with an LMP club this winter). The message is clear, in the highest levels of Mexican baseball women do not matter. The dismissal of assault and abuse of women isn’t just limited to the ranks of those tied to the leagues. It can be seen in those covering baseball in Mexico as well. Julio Urías receives almost daily coverage in the Mexican baseball press for his MLB exploits and he is lauded as a hero of Mexico with nary a single word about his suspension from MLB for domestic abuse.
Mexico has crafted a toxic culture around its professional baseball where all that matters is what takes place on the baseball diamond. As long as you don’t commit a sexual act of violence against a man or a boy LMB and LMP teams and offices are willing to look the other way. Reporters also have no time for any form of abuse that doesn’t violate the hypermasculinity of Mexican culture. The saddest thing is that both leagues have countless women fans and they essentially ask these women to sit there and shut up as their teams sign abuser after abuser with no end in sight. I still follow both leagues and have my teams that I root for, but I also push back as much as I can and highlight the awful human beings both leagues seem to enjoy employing.
It’s not enough though, I know that and I also know that I use the unaffiliated leagues as an escape from MLB. What exactly am I escaping when two of the leagues I watch frequently are treating domestic violence and abuse of women as not even the slight hassle that MLB often paints those acts as? I don’t expect LMB or LMP to change their method of operation any time soon. To them baseball is baseball and as long as you don’t meet the one caveat of doing anything that could be seen as less than masculine it doesn’t really matter to them what you do. Winning and producing are all that matter. Do that in Mexico and the top leagues will always have a place for you. If only LMB and LMP had the same steadfast regard for their many women fans as they do for domestic rapists and abusers.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Minor League Baseball