Christian Villanueva: Playing MLB game in Mexico 'dream come true'

MONTERREY, Mexico -- San Diego third baseman Christian Villanueva will become just the third Mexican to play a regular-season major league baseball game on home soil when the Padres begin a weekend series against the Dodgers on Friday.

The 26-year-old from Guadalajara leads major league rookies in home runs with nine and RBIs with 20 heading into a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first regular-season games in Mexico since 1999.

"I'm very happy with all the achievements that I'm getting," he said Friday. "Playing in Mexico, it's another dream come true. Being in my country and to represent the San Diego Padres and all of my country is great."

After missing the 2016 season with a broken leg while playing for the Chicago Cubs organization, Villanueva joined the Padres that December. The death of his brother last year motivated Villanueva to reach the big leagues, a goal he achieved last September.

"Breaking my leg motivated me. I thought that I was not going to make it, but the hard work and consistency brought me to the majors," Villanueva said. "I've never thought that I was going to be as successful so soon, and I'm very thankful with the Padres organization because they believed in me. I needed this chance, and I'm trying to take advantage of it."

He hit three homers against Colorado on April 3 in his second start this season.

"I'm enjoying my game and trying to keep it simple," he said. "I don't want to get too high on myself because I know how hard it was to get to the majors, so I want to keep working to stay here."

Villanueva will join Fernando Valenzuela and Vinny Castilla as the only Mexicans to play a regular-season big league game on home soil. Valenzuela started for the Padres against the New York Mets in 1996 and Castilla played for Colorado against San Diego in 1999. Villaneuva was expecting around 100 family and friends for the weekend series.

"For me it's an honor to come here after barely 50 games in the big leagues, and I take it as a blessing," Villanueva said.

He has not spoken to Valenzuela or Castilla but has been in contact with Adrian Gonzalez, who plays for the Mets and is the last Mexican star to play in the majors.

"Adrian sent me a signed ball and wished me success, and I've been in contact with him through his brother Edgar, asking him for advice," Villanueva said. "I want to know how a person as successful as he has [been] is able to handle so much. For me it's being difficult with all the media attention."