Struggling to win over fans in their own country, the Houston Astros have turned south to try to grow the fan base and to grow the sport.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow returned from Mexico on Wednesday after meeting with United States ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne about trying to improve the team's reach into Mexico both for fans and playing talent.
Luhnow, who grew up in Mexico City, is on Major League Baseball's taskforce on relations with Mexico. He said prior to the Astros' 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals that there have been preliminary conversations about the Astros playing games in either Mexico City or Monterrey or both.
"We have to work through a lot of issues including this year the World Baseball Classic and so forth, but the idea would be maybe start with a spring training game or two down there either against another U.S. club or the Diablos Rojos (a Mexican team) and eventually move to having a regular-season series down there," Luhnow said.
The Astros likely wouldn't be headed there in 2013 because of the wrench the World Baseball Classic will throw into the spring training schedule. However, 2014 is a possibility for a spring training game. It would be 10 years after the Astros last played in Mexico, facing the Marlins in exhibitions in Mexico City.
Given the large Mexican-American community in Houston, this is a priority -- not to mention how large a nation Mexico is with relatively few players compared to some smaller Latin American nations.
"It is an untapped resource for Major League Baseball," Luhnow said. "There's a lot of good Mexican players in the major leagues and minor leagues -- a lot of the best talent chooses to stay in Mexico rather than join the U.S. clubs for various reasons.
"It's especially important for the city of Houston and state of Texas considering how popular Mexican players would be."