On Sunday afternoon, I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I live pretty much equidistant between two Metro stations servicing two different lines. One of them I use to getting to friends’ places and for my Spanish lessons; the other I only ever use to go to the baseball games. It’s hardly the worst thing in the world, but, you take the same line often enough, it becomes tedious. I vary it up on the walk to and from the station. I sometimes cut north on this side street, sometimes another. There are about ten such side streets I can choose from. On Sunday afternoon, when I was just ambling around, listening to music on my iPod, vaguely heading in the direction of the huge Corona brewery to the north, near which I’d seen a strange-looking building when I was bombing past it in a car on Saturday. I walked up one of the streets I used more often when I’m heading towards the subway. And it hit me. This walk to this subway station that I’ve done for around 40% of the Diablos Rojos home games this season; this walk is part of the experience. Not a major revelation, I know, but it’s still a part of the experience of being a fan. In theory, the idea of a Star Trek-type of instant transportation to and from the ballpark sounds amazing. I could leave my apartment ten minutes before the game, I could be home a minute after the game ends. That would be damn cool. But would it, really? Isn’t part of the joy of baseball (or any other sporting event) the journey there and back. Before the game, you can ponder what might be; afterwards, re-live moments in your head, or re-live moments that could’ve or should’ve been.
For a weekday game that starts at 7pm, I’d ordinarily leave the apartment at about 5.45pm. I’d load up my iPod shuffle with a couple of hours worth of podcasts, and get to the Metro station, grab a ticket out of my wallet (there’s usually a queue at the ticket booth, so I tend to buy ten of the three peso single journey tickets at one time), walk down two long flights of stairs, down some more stairs underneath the tracks, up the other side, and wait there on the platform. (Tangent: is there a specific name for the part of a subway station which contains the platform and train tracks?) It’s hot down there. And the subway cars are hot. In theory there’s air-conditioning, but it has all the strength of of a 90 year old in a coma trying to blow out birthday candles. Three stations south, then change. A change at a busy station. Loads and loads of people trying to go in different directions. It’s stressful, for a couple of minutes. Thankfully, though, the train I’m changing to begins its journey at this station, so chances are I may get a seat. I’ll sit there, listening to Americans talking about baseball, on my way to a baseball game, surrounded by people who don’t care about baseball. When I arrive at Velodromo station, I always have a look around. There’s rarely anyone in my car with a Diablos cap or jersey, and at the station, there tends to only be a handful at most.
Walking the ten minutes to the park, past a school, past the weird Bowser-like Palacio de los Deportes, along a pavement with open manholes full of trash (I once saw dead chickens in one of them), up some steps to an overpass, down the steps, and there’s Foro Sol, the ballpark. Most occasions, there’ll only be between 50 and 100 people outside the ballpark. For a regular season game, I never bought a ticket in advance, and never waited more than a couple of minutes at the ticket booth.
Foro Sol is not an attractive ballpark. If you look on Google Maps, you’ll notice it’s in the middle of a motor sports track. Until 2000, both the Diablos Rojos and Tigres played at a ballpark called Parque del Seguro Social. A lot more centrally located, it was sold, and now there’s a mall there. Of course. Foro Sol was built in 1993 for concerts. A U2 live DVD was filmed there. And it seems to me, that plonking a baseball field there was more a matter of convenience than making a place that is good for watching baseball. (Foro Sol, by the way, is named after the beer brand. Strange, then, that at baseball games, they sell Corona and Victoria; beer made by Sol’s biggest rivals. I’m guessing it’s because the team themselves are sponsored by Corona.) For reasons I’ve explained before, me and the United States are currently on hiatus. So for the last two seasons, I’ve only seen baseball here and at the SkyDome in Toronto. I’ve been to 110 baseball games since 2005. 70 of those have been at either the SkyDome or Foro Sol. 64% of the baseball games I’ve seen have been at less-than-attractive ballparks. That’s a wee bit depressing. But, y’know, beggars/choosers, and the game is still baseball.
It’s baseball with a mascot that signs autographs for people. Never really understood that. It’s baseball with cheerleaders. They’re not very good. Despite dancing to the same songs every time, they’re always slightly out of sync with each other. And there’s never a consistent amount of them. Sometimes six, sometimes seven. Occasionally five, and one time, just four. I get the feeling that they might have other dancing jobs. It’s baseball at over 12,000 ft above sea level, more than double the elevation of Coors Field. I wonder if they have a humidor here. I doubt it. The Diablos hit 192 home runs this season, 53 more than anyone else. Makes you wonder what sort of home run derby they could have here if Pujols, Bautista, A-Rod, etc. came down here.
Reading Joe Posnanski’s post about leaving Kansas City, having watched “four or five hundred” games at Kauffman Stadium made me think. Made me think of all that I have missed by the simple fact that I wasn’t born on this continent. It’s not overly dramatic to say that baseball is the best thing in my life. This is only my seventh season following the game. A point at which most of the people who are reading these words would’ve been at probably in their earliest of teenage years. For me, I grew up watching soccer. I love soccer. It was my first love, but truthfully, over the last years, I’ve come to love baseball more. Very few things in life are as beautiful as a great soccer game, but very few things consistently make me happy as any baseball game. It’s not like the States or Toronto, and, from what I imagine, other parts of Mexico (mostly in the north) where baseball is popular. Very few people in this country’s capital care about béisbol. Most of the time there are only a few thousand people in the ballpark, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve adopted a Mexican League team, my local team, the Diablos Rojos, and I love being there. I love that over the past few months I’ve got to know the names of the players, their strengths, their weaknesses. I love that there are four or five people in the stadium who recognise me. Mexican people, Diablos Rojos fans, who say hello as I walk to my seat. That is fucking awesome.
The Diablos had the best record in the league (63-40, .614), got through two rounds of the playoffs to the final before being swept by the Tigres. I’ve only been watching for one season. It would’ve kind of been wrong if they’d won it all in my first season as a fan, I suppose. I have no idea if I will still be in Mexico City when the 2012 season starts in March. Maybe. If so, though, I’ll be making that journey from Polanco subway station to Velodromo station, listening to podcasts, with a couple of hundred pesos in my pocket for a ticket and a few Coronas.