The Águilas Cibaeñas achieved their sixth 2021 Caribbean Series championship when they defeated Puerto Rico's champion team, Criollos de Caguas, in a dramatic final game to conclude what was overall a competitive tournament with many possibilities for all participating teams. Undoubtedly, all eyes on the 2021 Mazatlan Caribbean Series were on four factors: COVID-19, Robinson Canó, Yadier Molina, and Águilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Republic.
Faced with the criticism at all levels of holding the Caribbean Series at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has the entire world in check, the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball and the Organizing Committee brought the event to a successful conclusion. During the event, there was only one official announcement of a player who tested positive for COVID-19 and two who unofficially were isolated and did not participate.
Canó and Molina, both with more than 15 years of Major League experience, World Series winners, and All-Star Game participants, were the top stars who participated in the tournament and showed their humility on and off the field in front of the fans. The Águilas Cibaeñas made their championship historic, both for the team, for the Dominican Republic as a country, and for their manager Félix Fermín.
Overall, in front of less than 45% of the total capacity of the Estadio Teodoro Mariscal for each of the games, the first Caribbean Series with three games a day and six teams held in Mexico concluded with an undefeated champion.
Covid-19 and the uncertainty of contagions
Although Mazatlan has not reached the red light, and with well-marked protocols for teams and fans, the Caribbean Series started on January 31 with 5,157 fans at the opening and third game at night according to the official, although videos and photos appeared on social networks denouncing that the protocols were not followed. The event went on without having more than 6,000 fans at a game until the semifinal on Friday night when 6,509 fans entered and were well distributed in the seats.
The entrance to the stadium was rigorous, taking the temperature of each person who entered, marking the number of gates accredited to the event and even for the players who arrived late, who only had access to the stadium through the bus entrance, as several could not enter through other gates when they were returned, Jonathan Camargo, from the Dominican Republic, was one of them.
Jaime Barría, the pitcher of the Federales de Chiriquí, was the only player who officially tested positive for COVID-19 and he made it public in his social networks.
Pitcher Andres Machado, who was replaced in the roster of Venezuela by Gabriel Lino, and outfielder Rafael Ortega, were isolated in their hotels according to unofficial voices of the confederation, but without being made official by Caribes de Anzoategui, their league, or the confederation.
Robinson Canó and Yadier Molina
The two great figures of the event, Robinson Canó, and Yadier Molina were not only "horses" on the field, but off the field and in front of the fans they demonstrated their humility despite individual Major League careers of more than 15 seasons. And both did not disappoint, as they were named to the Ideal All-Star Team, Canó as a second baseman and Molina as a catcher.
Although he batted just .192 in seven games, Molina was able to carry the pitching in three games in the regular round to lead Puerto Rico to the Final, where they lost in a great duel 4-1 to the Dominican Republic. He hit a pair of doubles, delighted the fans with a home run, and drove in three runs.
For his part, Canó started off hot with six hits and three passports in his first 12 plate appearances and ended up batting .368 in six games played, with seven hits -- all singles -- one run batted in, six passports, and only one strikeout in 19 legal innings. Fans sought them out and at all times received their attention from both players, to get their signatures on balls, cards, and other items.
Águilas Cibaeñas and Dominican Republic
On the field, there was only one protagonist, the Águilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Republic, once again led by Félix Fermín, who perfectly won the championship with a heart-stopping victory in the semifinal.
The Aguilas are the first team to win the series undefeated with a 7-0 record, the Dominican Republic as a country leagues successive titles for the first time in 2007 and 2008 and leaves alive a streak of 12 consecutive victories.
Félix Fermín made history by breaking the record of most wins for a manager in the Caribbean Series with 28, passing the 22 of the Mexican Francisco "Paquín" Estrada and the Puerto Rican Mako Oliveras, and he is the first with 7-0 in a single game.
For the first game in their territory in the 2022 Caribbean Series, the Dominican Republic will be looking for another record they own: 13 consecutive victories with the last five of Toros del Este in 2020 and the seven of Aguilas in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an atypical Caribbean Series in Mexico, where there is always a full house at the main game every night. This time the maximum capacity of 45% allowed at the Teodoro Mariscal Stadium - 7,200 people - did not even reach its limit.
Admissions for the night game each day were 5,157 on day one, 5,584 on day two, 4,915 on day 3, 5,029 on day 4, 5,520 on day 5, 6,509 in the semifinal and dropped to 4,003 in the Final.
Attendance per day was 7,800 on January 31, 8,368 on February 1, 9,381 on February 2, 6,925 on February 3, 8,684 on February 4, 10,385 on February 5 in the semifinal, and 4,003 on February 7 in the Final.
A total of 55,546 fans attended the 18 games of the series, an average of 3,085.8 per game. For the first game in the five days of the three games played, the best entry was recorded on day 1 with 761, and for the second game, the best entry was on day 3 with 4,066.
The new Teodoro Mariscal Stadium, rebuilt at a cost of US$23 million and reopened in October 2018, hosted the championship that pitted the champion teams of the Caribbean area's winter ball tournaments against each other. The facility has a capacity of 16,000 fans.
Since joining the CBPC, Mexico has hosted the Caribbean Series on 15 previous occasions, including five times in Mazatlán (1978, 1985, 1989, 1993, and 2005), but "The Pearl of the Pacific" was ignored by those responsible for assigning venues until it had a new stadium. Mazatlán ("City of Deer" in Nahuatl, the old Mexican language) is the second-largest city in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.