Four Tucsonans playing for popular Naranjeros de Hermosillo this winter

Four Tucsonans on one professional baseball team is headline news, especially at the level of the Naranjeros de Hermosillo (Sonora) in the Mexican Pacific Coast League.

Alex Robles, a Class of 2013 graduate of Tucson High, agreed with the contention that the Naranjeros, who play in front of a regularly sold-out Estadio Sonora (capacity 16,000), are the New York Yankees of their league based on their popularity.

“It really is,” said Robles, an infielder. “The following that we have is huge. People love baseball a great deal in Hermosillo.”

The Naranjeros have won 16 titles and they were the first Mexican team to win the Caribbean Series, doing so in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1976.


Robles, right-hander Jose Samayoa (Catalina graduate of 2008), catcher Cesar Salazar (Sahuaro 2015) and right-hander Kenneth Sigman (Tucson 2009) had the opportunity to play with the Naranjeros over the weekend in Tucson at the Mexican Baseball Fiesta in front of large crowds at the Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Samayoa and Salazar are from Hermosillo and take pride playing for the hometown Naranjeros (translated to “orange trees” in English).

“I’m very happy to be with my home team,” Samayoa said. “It’s definitely been a fun ride. It’s been fun the whole way. We’ve had our ups and downs but I’ve had the pleasure of winning a championship there in 2013 and 2014. We’re trying to win one this year. We have a really good team.

“If anyone from Tucson has the chance to go down to Hermosillo to watch us play, they’re more than welcome. They’ll have a fun experience down there.”

The drive to Hermosillo from Tucson is approximately 4 1/2 hours.

Samayoa came to Tucson with his family when he was a teenager and was a standout pitcher on Shane Folsom’s Class 4A state semifinalist with Catalina in 2008, a team that included slugger Shaun Cooper.

Samayoa went on to Lee University in Tennessee and was selected in the ninth round of MLB draft in 2013 by the Texas Rangers. He played two years in the Rangers’ organization before devoting his time only to Mexican professional baseball starting in the winter of 2013 with Hermosillo.

“Coming here from Hermosillo as a teenage boy, it was hard, ” Samayoa said. “I’ve definitely made some good friendships here along the way. They helped me grow throughout my high school career. They helped me a lot with baseball. They helped me a lot with my English.”

Salazar, who moved to Tucson from Hermosillo in 2012, excelled with Arizona after graduating from Sahuaro and has made a good progression in the Houston Astros’ farm system since the team drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 draft.

He advanced to Triple-A Sugar Land (Texas) this year for the second straight season. His promotion to Sugar Land, where he reunited with former Arizona teammate J.J. Matijevic, was earned this season after he belted 16 home runs with 54 RBIs for Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas). He played at Corpus Christi with former Arizona batterymate Cody Deason, a Friday night starter for the Wildcats during the Pac-12 season.

Salazar is entering his fifth winter with the Naranjeros.

“It’s just special playing in front of my family and my friends in a league that is so prestigious and so good,” Salazar said. “You learn so much. You play with and against ex-big leaguers, people that have played at the level of baseball that I want to play at someday. It’s a good experience and it gets me ready for the upcoming season.”

Sigman is the oldest of the group at 33 but he’s kept himself in prime physical shape since leaving Tucson for South Mountain Community College in 2009.

Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 48th round of the 2010 draft, Sigman has played professionally exclusively in Mexico (native country to his family) since the winter of 2011.

He is with Hermosillo for the fourth straight winter after playing previously with Guasave (2011 and 2012), Jalisco (2014 and 2015), Mazatlan (2016 and 2017) and Obregon (2016 and 2017).

“It’s a very good organization — probably the best in Mexico,” Sigman said of the Naranjeros. “They take it very seriously but at the same time, they have a lot of fun. It’s a good team to be with.”

Sigman and Robles played for the legendary Oscar Romero at Tucson High.

Sigman, who was also a left-handed power-hitting designated hitter for Romero, once hit a 300-foot home run into a strong wind in the inaugural Cherry Field Classic in 2009 that prompted Romero to tell an Arizona Daily Star reporter: “I joked that if anyone actually got one out, there was 10 steak dinners for that guy.”

That did not happen but Sigman feels indebted to Romero and the Badger experience, nonetheless.

“I think the best thing about playing for Tucson High is that it was a big school, and a lot of guys wanted to make the team,” Sigman said. “It felt good to be one of those guys who got picked up. I kind of miss the school, too, because the other day I was downtown, which is right by the school, and I was having some flashbacks.”

After graduating from Tucson High in 2013, Robles went on to be a standout infielder with Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tenn., with a four-year career batting average of .336 with 268 hits.

He was drafted in the 30th round by the Minnesota Twins in 2017. After two seasons in that organization, Robles also went primarily to playing in Mexico starting in 2019 with the Tigres de Cancun Quintana Roo during the summer and Hermosillo that winter.

“This organization is a storied one in Mexico, one that I actually looked up to and watched growing up,” Robles said. “It’s been fun to play for them the last few years and have some success and build my own memories with the team. It’s been a blessing.”

Robles reflects back on his time with Romero as the “very first building block that helped my career as far as knowing how to win.”

“Coach O (Romero) really grinded it in us, wanting to win and how to win,” Robles continued. “I know it’s a team sport. Everything is individual but know how to play as a team, Coach O did a great job of doing that.

“It was one of the best memories that I have playing at Tucson High. I still have plenty of friends who I hang out with still who I played with at Tucson High. It was awesome.”

Hermosillo opens its 2022-23 season Wednesday at home against Obregon. Games can be viewed on the Naranjeros’ YouTube channel. Access their schedule by clicking here.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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