Writing > Three games in two cities

April 25, 2011: Three games in two cities

Game 1: Pericos de Puebla 5 Tigres de Quintana Roo 0
4:00pm Friday April 22, 2011
Time: 2:48 (with a 1:33 delay)
Attendance: 8,520

Game 2: Pericos de Puebla 6 Tigres de Quintana Roo 0
4:00pm Saturday April 23, 2011
Time: 2:32
Attendance: 7,855

Game 3: Diablos Rojos del México 16 Petroleros de Minatitlan 9
12:00pm Sunday April 24, 2011
Time: 3:28
Attendance: 7,511

First road trip of the Liga Mexicana season for me. One of the things I'm hoping to do while I'm here is see as many ballparks as possible. With the well-documented issues in the north of Mexico, there are some ballparks that I won't be visiting; it's just not safe enough. But nine teams of the fourteen teams are in the south, and at the weekend, some friends and I went down to Puebla, Mexico's fourth biggest city, about two hours east-southeast of Mexico City. My friends are Tigres fans, and they were the visiting team, in town to play the Pericos (Parrots).

The Pericos ballpark, Estadio de Béisbol Harmanos Serdán, stands in the shadows of the way larger soccer stadium, and it's a nice wee park. Baseball here quite clearly isn't awash with the money that the majors have, and you can see it in the ballparks. The two I've been to so far are old, rough around the edges, functional. But this one is way nicer than the capital city's park. It's smaller, so seven or eight thousand people seems like a lot, and the atmosphere is better. Part of that, I assume, is down to the friendliness one experiences when one leaves a huge city.

For the first game, we sat around third base. It was baking hot, and we found four seats that were just about in the shade. But that had us sat right behind the dudes with the drums, sirens, and big flags. Not as bad as one would imagine. They made a lot of noise and kept the crowd pumped up. And rather that that incessant blaring of music of the PA, (although that did happen, too). It's one of the things I find strange about baseball in the majors, especially coming from a European background of watching soccer: as the crowd gets going with organic chanting, singing, cheering, the dude in control of the PA will completely destroy it by pressing the We Will Rock You button.

Anyway, the Pericos got off to a great start, Mauricio Lara throw four no-hit innings. In the fifth, he loaded the bases, but got out of it without coughing up any runs. By that time, they were 3-0 up, and tacked on a couple more in the bottom of the seventh as the sky darkened, and the rain came lashing down. Absolutely pissing it down. The tarp came out and, oh, it kinda only reached over half of the infield. They didn't even bother covering the mound. I assumed there was no way the game would be finished, yet no announcement came, which seemed odd as the third base and home plate areas became big puddles.

All the while, the crowd, though, kept themselves entertained. Most of the people in our section were chatting away to each other, and a gregarious fella kept inviting ladies to dance in the aisles. An old timer was dancing on his own, too. Over an hour after the players left the field, the grounds crew came out, removed the tarp, put more dirt down, repainted the lines, and the game resumed. One final out in the bottom of the seventh, six straight outs in the eighth, and a fly ball, single, and double play ended the game. After a ninety minute delay, the game was over in fifteen minutes.

Same time, same place on Saturday, my Tigres-supporting pals hoping for a better showing than the four hits they got on Friday. Back on the third base side of things. Another thing that is different in Puebla is how the beer is served. In Mexico City, it's in paper Corona-branded cups. Here, there's no mucking about:

As with fans in Mexico City, there are plenty of MLB teams represented in merchandise. Some of the merchandise, though, isn't spelled as well as one would hope:

And while we're on the topic of racist stuff in baseball, the Puebla fans also do that Tomahawk Chop shit. The guy above wearing the Cleeveland Indians t-shirt, I asked him if I could take his photograph. I spluttered in crappy Spanish that a good friend of mine is an Indians fan (true), and that I hadn't seen many Indians fans in Mexico (exaggeration) and it'd be great if I could show him there were fans here (lie, I just wanted to take a pic of his badly-spelled shirt). He said no, so I spent a not-insignificant amount of my camera's memory card taking high-speed burst photos surrupticiously, eventually getting a pic as he left to get some food.

That same Indians-supporting friend and I share an interest: baseball caps which feature a character wearing a different cap. The Pericos have such a cap, so I went to the store to buy one on Friday. At the time I was wearing an Expos cap. A shop assistant excitedly pointed out that they had an Expos jersey. I got the distinct feeling that it had been hung up in the racks for a while. They didn't take credit cards, so on Saturday, I went back, bought the Vlad jersey, and a rather excellent book, "Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano." Full of statistics of about every LMB season up to 1992. Bedtime reading for quite some time to come, and hopefully, I'll get a graphic about Mexican baseball out of it, too.

I'm quite sure I'm not alone in this, but whenever I go to a new ballpark, I like to walk around, watch the game from various parts of the park, so my pal Sam and I went for a wander to the outfield bleachers. The batter's eye has a walkway connecting the left- and right-field bleachers, which was, rather understandably, fairly intriguing. When I got dead center, I crouched down, rested my camera on the wall and started snapping away.

And then came an announcement: "A las personas que están en la zona negra, las invitamos a pasar a sus lugares." A couple of the players turned around, and my mate said, "They're talking to us, we have to move." Obviously, we shouldn't really have been there in the middle of the batter's eye while the game was in progress, but, y'know, you put a walkway there, you're essentially inviting gringos to take pictures. I did feel a little guilty, though.

The game itself was kinda similar to Friday's. Except the Puebla pitching was even better this time, Andres Meza throwing a complete game shutout, allowing 3 hits, a walk, and striking out nine.

Back in the big city, Sunday morning, I umm-ed and aah-ed about going to the Diablos game, but I wasn't kidding myself: of course I wanted to go. A noon start wasn't enough to put me off, especially considering I'd not seen the visiting team before. And Petroleros (Oilers) is an enjoyable name to say. Back at Foro Sol, the joy of the Pericos park was even more noticeable. Damn, this city needs a new ballpark. Baseball could be so much better with a slightly smaller, more baseball-speciifc park. And better dancers. The dancers in Puebla were awesome. They varied the costumes each time they came out to dance. Pom-poms the first time, baseball bats the second time, cowboy hats the third time. It may sound obvious, but they danced in time, too. Not so with the Diablos dancers, who dance like they'd learnt the routine twenty minutes ago.

The Diablos got off to a flying start, striking out the first three Petroleros, and then smacking two homers to take a 4-0 lead. Next inning, another seven runs, and two more in the third. A scoreless fourth, and the Petroleros first batter in the fifth hit a home run over the left field fence. As he jogged around the bases, Rolando Acosta was mockingly clapped and cheered. 13-1. But they went on to get four more runs, and added another five in the sixth. The Diablos added three more in those innings, too, and that's how it ended. 16-9. An enjoyable end to a fantastic weekend of baseball.