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July 10, 2008 / Sports / Brooklyn Cyclones / Ups & Downs

Portobanco, Clones first-season star, is dead in car crash

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Luz Portobanco, the starting pitcher in the first game in Cyclones’ history, died in a car accident on July 5 near Managua, Nicaragua.

The Miami-born hurler was 28 years old.

Portobanco was driving between Leon and Managua when his car went off the road at about 2:40 am, according to El Nuevo Diario, a Nicaraguan paper.

The right-hander was the Mets’ 36th-round draft pick in 2000, and made the Cyclones in 2001. He started the team’s first game on June 19, 2001 in Jamestown, and pitched well. For the record, the first pitch in Clones history was a strike, right down the middle.

Portobanco went 5–3 in the Cyclones’ first season with a 2.04 ERA. He was also a devout Christian whose religious faith helped him bridge the usual gap between Latino and American-born players.

A fierce competitor, he was particularly effective against the Cyclones’ arch-rival, the Staten Island Yankees, going 3–0 against the Baby Bombers in the regular season, with a 0.53 ERA. He allowed only one run in 17 innings on only five hits. This success earned him the nickname of “Yankee Killer.”

“Each time I’ve pitched to them, I changed my style,” the crafty righty, who features a fastball, change-up and slow curve, said after that third straight victory in 2001.

But success eluded the 6-foot-3, 205-pound fireballer. After his year with the Cyclones, he spent most of 2002 with the Mets’ Capital City Bombers in the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he was 4–5 with a 5.57 ERA. He finished that season in St. Lucie, where he was 0–2 with an 8.18 ERA.

Portobanco remained in the Mets’ farm system through 2006, when he was released. His career numbers were quite different from that glorious first year in Brooklyn: 17 wins, 35 losses, with a 5.01 ERA.

At the time of his death, he was a pitcher for Boer in the Nicaraguan First Division.

Portobanco was always a fan favorite because of his sense of humor, and he was well-liked by the Brooklyn players, and the coaching staff.

“Luz was a nice, sweet person, like a big kid,” Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo said this week. Alfonzo was Portobanco’s manager during Brooklyn’s inaugural season.

“He called me ‘Pop,’ and I was like a second father to him. His mother always called me, and asked me to watch out for him. She wanted me to keep him straight, and he respected me, listened to me.

“He had a lot of talent, and was a tough competitor, and always wanted the ball. Inside, he had a big heart.”

He was also loved as a fierce competitor in his year with the Cyclones. When a brawl broke out during a game against the Hudson Valley Renegades, Portobanco didn’t just sit on the bench, but rushed to the field to defend his bullpen compadre Francisco Sosa.

“I’ll always remember Porto at the heart of that magical inaugural season — someone who lived life loud and with passion, who thought of his teammates as brothers, and of Brooklyn as a second home,” said Cyclones spokesman Dave Campanaro. “And I’ll think of him leading the ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ with teammates and fans after the 2001 playoff victory over Staten Island.”

The Cyclones will have a moment of silence for Luz Portobanco before their game on Saturday, July 12 at 6 pm.

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Reader Feedback

Clarissa from Miami says:
Luz was that friend that I will remember growing up with since elementary school. Always smiling and he loved the game of baseball. It is sad to see a good friend pass away and my condolences go to the family.

I will miss you my friend...
July 12, 2008, 2:51 am
JENNIFER FLORES from MIAMI says:
i love u! and
i hope ur with
god and i now
ur looking at ME
from the sky and
am very sorry of
what happennedon
july the 5TH AT
MANGUA AND LEON I LLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEE
UUUUUUUU!!!:D SO MUCH
ILL NEVER FORGET U FOR
NOTHING OKAY AND U NOW
UR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
AND FANS LOVE AND WELL
STILL REMEMBER U AND
WILL SHOUT UR NAME OUT
LOUD WE LOVE U
AND UR BROTHERS
LOVE U TOO AND I WANT U
TO NOW EVEN IFUR DIED
IS LIKE U ARE STILL HERE
WITH US AND I NOW U HAVE
A LITTEL BABY GIRL AND A
BOY THAT I NOW IS GOING
TO BE LIKE SMART,TELEGENT,
BRIGHT AND FANS LOVING HIM
LIKE THEY DID TOO U AND UR
2 BROTHERS ALL LOVE U AND THINK OF U R.I.P.:D

LOVE ,LUZ BORTOBANCO :D
-------------------
July 13, 2008, 5:38 pm
EDWIN FLORES from MIAMI says:
I LOVE U! ill miss u okay.


July 13, 2008, 5:42 pm
JEANETTE from LITTLE HAVANNA says:
LUZ U WILL BE MISSED I STILL REMEMBER ARE CHILD HOOD MEMORIES I LOVE U AND I WILL ALWAYS HAVE U IN MY HEART . I KNOW U WILL BE LOOKIN DOWN AND PROTECTING OUR FAMLIES U ARE AN ANGEL IN THE SKY NOW! U WERE A SUCSESS AND WE ARE VERY PROUD!!!!! LOVE JEANETTE, LUCIANO, IVETTE ODILIA, CACHITA , COCKITO!!!!
July 14, 2008, 9:59 am
Belmys Monterrey from Lil Havanna says:
Thank you very much every body that are writing alittle bit of my uncle Luz P.Thank you very much. And God Bless You!!!
July 29, 2008, 11:06 pm
ANGEL from NEW YORK says:
Not a day goes by that I don't think of you....
You will always be in my heart and I love you and miss you Luz. I am thankful of our daughter Natalina and wish you were here to see her grow up, she looks just like you, and now says papi. I know that you are looking down and protecting, and you are her guardian angel.
we miss and love you
angel and natalina
Dec. 13, 2008, 11:53 am
Rommel Portobanco from Miami says:
thats my cuzin write there R.I.P.
Feb. 13, 2009, 11:28 pm
Rommel Portobanco from Miami says:
thats my cuzin right there R.I.P.
Feb. 13, 2009, 11:29 pm
Naseer from Hialeah says:
I miss u luz i still have ur converse and ur glove.... U were a huge part in my life and i will always pray for u! Wadup cauz! Lol
Jan. 2, 2012, 2:40 pm
hedritch morales from miami says:
Luz is like my brother me n him we started playing baseball for the hurracanes we were 10 years old are coach name was freddy garcias omg i can't. belive u are. gonegone.
Oct. 21, 2012, 9:27 pm
Yessie from Miami says:
Is been 5 years now since your passing my friend, is sad that I just found out, you had a life ahead of you things were turning the way you always wanted them to be. You were a great friend always happy always full of energy, made everyone smile no matter the situation, and that is the best memory I have and will always cherish from you. You're missed, but you'll always have that special place in my heart you were always like a brother to me Thank you! I miss you... I know you're up in heaven watching over all of us here that love you and miss you!!
July 15, 2013, 8:41 pm

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