Mexican-American leaders urged fans to boycott the Los Angeles Dodgers to protest the club's release last week of pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.

"It's apparent that the Dodgers don't like Mexicans, but they like their money," Raul Ruiz, vice president of the Mexican American Political Association, said Thursday at a news conference outside Dodger Stadium.Valenzuela, who rose to stardom from a small village in the Mexican state of Sonora, was released last week after 11 seasons with the club.

During Valenzuela's career, the Dodgers captured two World Series and four National League West titles. Along the way, he posted a 141-116 record and was named to the All-Star game six times.

But the last two seasons, the portly left-hander has struggled, posting a 23-26 record and a 4.02 earned run average.

Despite his trouble on the mound, the 30-year-old Valenzuela remained a hero to the city's large Mexican-American population.

"He's a symbol of hope for every Mexican kid you see in the streets of the barrios where there's precious little hope," said Virginia Reade, a Mexican-American political activist who said she supports the boycott.

Ruiz accused the Dodgers of discrimination against Mexican-Americans.

"The Dodgers have gone many thousands of miles out of their way to recruit talented players from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, yet cannot seem to find a single Chicano youngster that can play baseball just a few miles east of this stadium," Ruiz said.