Francisco Montaner Stadium – Tribute to a Sporting Legend
Named for one of Puerto Rico’s greatest baseball pitchers of all time, Francisco “Paquito” Montaner, the Estadio Francisco Montaner is the home-ground of the Puerto Rico Baseball League’s Leones de Ponce team, as well as the Puerto Rico Soccer League’s FC Leones. With its 16,000 seat capacity, this multi-purpose stadium in the city of Ponce is located alongside the Juan Pachín Vicéns Auditorium, home to the Leones de Ponce basketball team. The stadium was built in 1949 and in 2003 became the first stadium of its kind to install artificial turf.
From February through to January, the Francisco Montaner Stadium is used for baseball, and between February and August it is converted into a venue for track and field events, with the track being elevated by means of a hydraulic system. The stadium is also used as a winter training venue by a number of US Major League baseball players, and has been used for wrestling and boxing competitions, concerts and religious conventions.
Born in Ponce on 16 August 1894, Francisco “Paquito” Montaner became the first player to throw a “no hitter” – where the pitcher prevents the opposing team from achieving a hit – in Puerto Rican baseball. He was inducted into the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and into Ponce’s Gallery of the Immortals of Ponce Sports in 1983. In addition to his status as one of the greatest Puerto Rican pitchers of all time, Montaner was also a skilled infielder. His baseball talent became evident in high school, with one memorable occasion reportedly being two games on the same day between his alma mater Ponce High School and Santurce Central High School, during which he pitched with such accuracy that the opposing team didn’t score a single run. He also managed to score strikeouts against fifteen batters in succession on a different occasion. Another achievement was a no-hitter against the All-American team with a number of major league players. Montaner turned down an offer to play for the All-American team, choosing to remain in Puerto Rico, where in 1912 he threw another no-hitter while playing for the Liga del Castillo against the Capital Pope team from San Juan. He retired from baseball in 1923 following an injury. Sadly Paquito Montaner passed away in Ponce on 5 April 1945 at the age of 50 after suffering for some time from leukemia, leaving behind his wife and four children. The Estadio Francisco Montaner stands as a reminder of this remarkable Puerto Rican baseball player.