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Updated: January 19, 2018
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(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Henk Seppen & Marco Stoovelaar)

Diegomar Markwell & Dudley Leonora to participate in Serie Latinoamericana

WILLEMSTAD (Curaçao, Neth.) - Lefthanded pitcher Diegomar Markwell and infielder Dudley Leonora of Curaçao Neptunus will participate in the upcoming sixth edition of the Serie Latinoamericana. In the event, Markwell and Leonora will play for KJ74-Guardian Group WildCats, which will represent Curaçao as the champion of the Curaçao Winter League (Beisbòl Doble A). Utility player Yurendell De Caster, catcher Dashenko Ricardo and pitcher Shairon Martis also will play for the Curaçao-squad.

...Diegomar Markwell with the Netherlands...
...during the 2017 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
The sixth Serie Latinoamericana opens next Friday (January 26) and will take place in Nicaraguan capital Managua. All games will be played in the beautiful new Estadio Nacional Dennis Martínez, which was opened last October. At the same site, the National Team of Nicaragua will play a series of three games against Cuba at the end of February. The Serie Latinoamericana also was held in Managua two years ago in the former Estadio Dennis Martínez.

Since the first edition of the tournament in 2013, four teams participated in the annual event. These were the champions of the professional leagues in Colombia, Nicaragua and Panamá, as well as the professional league in the State of Veracruz in México. The champion of the Mexican Pacific League qualifies for participation in the Serie del Caribe. These countries are all members of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Béisbol Profesional.

This year, the field of participants in the Serie Latinoamericana was expanded and up to seven countries could have been represented. However, only one additional team will join the other four in Managua, which will be the champion of the Curaçao Winter League. Also invited were the champions of Argentina and Chile. However, they had to withdrawn due to financial reasons. Last year, Curaçao, Argentina and Chile joined the ALBP making them eligible to participate in the Serie Latinoamericana.

Already qualified for the event, besides WildCats, are Bravos de Urracá (Panamá) and Tobis de Acayucan (México). Manager of the Panamese team is former Netherlands Team-player Sharnol Adriana. Bravos finished in second place behind Los Caballos de Coclé. The champion withdraw its team due to a salary dispute for the players. The championship in Colombia and Nicaragua has yet to be decided.

Last year, when the event was held in Colombia, Tigres de Chinandega from Nicaragua was the winner. It was the second year in a row that the Nicaraguan champion won. Two years ago, it was Gigantes de Rivas that finished in first place. Both times, Yurendell De Caster played for the Nicaraguan squad. In 2016, he was the Best Hitter of the tournament with a .455 batting average. Last year, Dashenko Ricardo, who then also played for Tigres, shared the lead with three runs scored. In 2016, Ricardo played for Curaçao Neptunus in the Dutch league and also for the Netherlands Team. Curt Smith, who has been a regular player in the Netherlands Team the last few years, also won the Serie Latinoamericana with Tigres last year. Currently, Smith again plays for Tigres, which leads the best-of-seven Nicaraguan Final 3-1.

...Dudley Leonora with the Netherlands Team...
...during the 2016 Haarlem Baseball Week...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Diegomar Markwell is one of two players on the roster of WildCats who play in the Dutch big league. Last season, the lefthanded pitcher won the championship-tite with Curaçao Neptunus for whom he plays since 2005. The other player is Dudley Leonora, who last season played for Hoofddorp Pioniers after having played for Kinheim before that. This year, Leonora, who played as short stop and first baseman, will play for Neptunus.

WildCats will participate in Managua with a strong squad. Also on the roster are pitchers Wendell Floranus, Johnny Gregorius, Ruderly Manuel, Shairon Martis, catcher Dashenko Ricardo and infielder Shurendell Mujica.

As mentioned, Ricardo played for Neptunus in 2016 after having played for Kinheim, where he became the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 season. Gregorius, the brother of New York Yankees-short stop Didi Gregorius, briefly played for ADO in the Dutch big league some years ago. Manuel has played in the Dutch big league for Sparta-Feyenoord. Shairon Martis and Shurendell Mujica have played for the Netherlands National Team. Last year, Martis played for the Orange squad during the World Baseball Classic, as did Markwell, De Caster and Ricardo. Martis also participated in the Classic of 2006 and 2013. In 2016, Martis, Ricardo and De Caster also participated in the European Championship, as did Markwell and Leonora. Floranus pitched for the Netherlands during the Premier12 in 2015. Mujica played for the Netherlands Team in the 2014 Haarlem Baseball Week. Manuel participated with Curaçao in the 2013 World Port Tournament and 2016 Haarlem Baseball Week. Some of the other players on the roster also participated with Curaçao in last years World Port Tournament in Rotterdam (Netherlands).

Pitcher Jair Jurrjens and infielder Sharlon Schoop also were invited for the Curaçao-squad. Unfortunately, both were unavailable to play for the team. Jurrjens currently plays in the Play-Offs of the professional Dominican League with Tigres del Licey. The champion of that league qualifies for the Serie del Caribe, which takes place early February in México.

...Johnny Balentina...
(© Ph: Marco Stoovelaar)
The Manager of WildCats is former Netherlands Team-catcher Johnny Balentina, who played many seasons in the Dutch big league for Neptunus, Sparta, Kinheim and ADO. Including in Balentina's coaching staff are Didi Gregorius Sr. and Myron Wyman. Gregorius Sr. pitched many seasons in the Dutch big league for Amsterdam Pirates and also played for Haarlem Nicols. Wyman played several seasons for ADO and some other teams. Gregorius will be the Pitching Coach, as well as being active in the bullpen, while Wyman will be an assistant during pre-game activities.

In November, Balentina led WildCats to the title on Curaçao, winning the Championship Series against Santa Maria Pirates. With that, the team of WildCats qualified for participation in the Serie Latinoamericana.

What does Johnny Balentina expects in Nicaragua? ,,You know me, expectations are always high for me. We're going there to win. A disadvantage for us is that we know nothing of the opponents, but these four teams will all play on the first day, so we can look at them.''

Balentina continues: ,,We will participate for the first time in this tournament, we will play to accomplish the highest possible. We simply will prepare to play in the Final! That's were it's all about. When we not reach the Final, this will be a great experience. And so, we can prepare even more for next year. So, we will play our very best to get invited again next year and participate again.''

WildCats will play its first game on Saturday, January 27 against the Colombian champion. In following days, the team meets the respresentatives of Panamá, Nicaragua and México. The Final will be played on January 31.

...Shairon Martis pitching for the Netherlands Team...
...during the 2016 European Championship...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
The roster of WildCats looks as follows:

Sidney Antonia, Wendell Floranus, Terrence Garcia, Johnny Gregorius, Shair La Crus, Ruderly Manuel, Diegomar Markwell, Shairon Martis, Alexander Rodriguez, Carrol Servania and Cerilio Soleana.

Reangelo Beaumont and Dashenko Ricardo.

Yurendell De Caster, Raywendley van Gurp, Randolph Kirindongo, Dudley Leonora and Shurendell Mujica.

Luisgardo Alvarez, Levi Carolus Jr., Rojean Cleofa, Sherman La Crus and Raysheron Michel.

Johnny Balentina (Manager), Raymond van Gurp (Bench Coach), Franklin Confesor (1B Coach), Remick Bernadina (3B Coach), Fermin Coronel (Pitching Coach, pitch-count), Didi Gregorius Sr. (Pitching/Bullpen Coach), Darren Da Costa Gomez (Pre-Game Coach), Myron Wyman (Pre-Game Coach), Robert Duncan (Physical Therapist) and Clinton Leocadia (Physical Therapist).

(January 19)

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