Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category
See it larger here.
Well, today one of life’s boxes got ticked: being in the New York Times. All the credit, though, should go to a man called Jeremy, who is the guy handling promotion of my book. He was the one who managed to get my work in there. So, yes, today’s New York Times, page 15 of the magazine, looks like this:
“Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure” is in stores on Tuesday. More info here.
My friend Joe took this photo in a branch of Chapters in Toronto. Although the official publication date of my book isn’t until Tuesday, July 5th, it’s on sale up in the Great White North.
Some work-in-progress today. I’m enjoying drawing with the Brushes app on the iPad more and more. At first, I was a little underwhelmed. I’ve been using the app on the iPod since the end of 2008, and when I bought an iPad, pretty much entirely because I wanted to use it for drawing, I didn’t enjoy the larger canvas as much as I thought I would. But now I am. I’ve started to use it as a sketchbook, trying stuff out. Anyway, these three drawings are from a series I’m working on: just a fat green man on vacation.
More finger painting here.
Quick drawing of one of baseball’s greatest moments: Carlton Fisk’s game-winning, series-tying home run in game six of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. This moment:
When people think about good commercials, not many people mention baseball teams. When fans of the sport, though, think about good commercials, the Seattle Mariners are somewhere near the top. For years now they’ve been making excellent commercials. Here’s a few of them.
But the reason for all of this blah de bloody blah about baseball uuuuuur-gain, is one they did earlier this year:
I’ve done drawings of the characters featured: Felix Hernandez and his, err, colleagues.
More drawings of baseball players here.
It’s been a whole three weeks since I’ve been to a Diablos game. Doesn’t sound like much, but I was kinda used to seeing at least two or three games a fortnight. Nice to be back there. I’ve had an underlying bad mood for a the last couple of weeks, and while I’m not blaming a lack of live baseball (which would mean my winters would be awful), the lack of baseball, that lack of emptying my mind of its daily crap, well, I don’t think it helped. But, hangover intact, sunglasses on, steaming hot subway journey to the park, and it was free New Era mini cap day.
As you can see from the flyer that they put up on Facebook, there’s a wee bit of misdirection going on. They do say it’s a New Era mini cap, but the photo of the Diablos caps made me assume I’d be getting a mini Diablos cap. Sadly not. It was just a New Era cap. Still, it’s a new one for the tiny collection of mini caps. Here is a photograph of that collection.
And here’s a photo of my flatmate’s cat clearly signalling that she is a Rockies fan.
The weird thing about it being a New Era promotion day was there was very little stuff going on. Some minor league between innings games for children a couple of times was about it. The strangest thing was the lack of caps for sale in the store. They had no official on-field caps. None. All they were selling was the fashion-y caps, which, as we all know, are wrong.
Because I’m rather twitchy about these giveaways when they are limited in number, I got there 90 minutes before first pitch; in time to see the visitors taking batting practice. I rarely get to the park early enough for that sort of thing. Sitting there, drinking a hair of the dog Corona, it occurred to me that batting practice has a very similar dynamic to one of those silly, world record achieving, gang bang porn films: lots of dudes stood around swinging their bats impatiently waiting their turn to bang away in the cage.
The DJ, if that’s the right word, at the ballpark seems to have found some new records. He played a song by Muse. I’ve not really heard a Muse song all the way through for about ten years. I was genuinely a wee bit flummoxed at how ridiculous they sound. I wonder if they realise. I wonder if they do that music as a kind of huge money-making joke. And the DJ played that awful “Umbrella” song by the Baseballs. I see what you did there, Señor DJ. And still on the topic of music, the cheerleaders were dancing to the Rihanna song “Only Girl in the World.” I got to imagining what that would be like if a woman was in fact, the only girl in the world. I imagine it’d be quite a stressful situation, to say the least.
I was very self-conscious at the game for some reason. Actually, I know exactly why I was feeling self-conscious: I’d been watching a guy while batting practice was going on. He was probably in his mid-forties, wearing a Diablos cap, a Diablos jersey, which was tucked into his knee-length black shorts, and calf-high white socks. Generally, a pretty dorky look. And he was stood with his back to the field near the top of the seating area, throwing a baseball against a seat a few rows higher and catching it in his glove. I watched him for a few minutes. All the time, he had no idea I was watching and planning to blog about him later. That made me self-conscious. I noticed that I have a habit of setting my beer down on the floor, and re-setting it two or three times. Just moving a few millimetres, not much, but it was unnerving to notice it. I also got bored of score-keeping in the second inning and wanted to stop, but because a guy who was sat a few seats away had taken a lingering look at what I was doing on a couple of occasions, I was too embarrassed to just put the cap on my biro and relax.
As with games in the other two-thirds of North America, the vendors try to drum up trade as they walk around the park. Lots of stuff to buy: buy, soft drinks, popcorn, nuts, ice cream, iced coffee, esquites, and tacos de cochinita. The taco de cochinita vendors were wearing new tabards. At least, I think they were new; I’d not noticed them before. Someone had cleverly noticed that the name of this particular snack has the same initials as appear in the cap logo of a major league team. And, well, it seems like they’ve ripped off the Minnesota Twins’ logo completely.
While we’re talking about vendors and logos: the souvenir guy was selling small plastic batting helmets. Not just Diablos helmets, but Yankees helmets too. And interestingly – well, maybe not – it seems like the logo on these mini helmets is the jersey logo, not the logo that normally appear in the helmet or cap. Topic already addressed here.
There was, though, one vendor who caught my eye. He wasn’t shouting about his wares. He didn’t walk up and down the steps touting his goods. He just walked slowly, looking hopefully up at the spectators, holding a large hardback book in his hand. I watched him for a while. He didn’t seem to have any takers. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo, and I have no idea what the book was.
The Saraperos, last season’s champs, aren’t doing so great so far this season. Heading into the game they were 26-37, second from bottom in the Zona Norte division. The Diablos, though, were 37-26, half a game out of first place. The Diablos wore their red alt jerseys, Saraperos wore their turquoise. It was a bit softball, but quite a nice colour combination, I think.
After taking the lead off a Carlos Valencia home run in the bottom of the first, the heart of the Saraperos order crushed it in the second and third, taking a 5-1 lead. But coming off the back of six straight wins, the Diablos chipped away, gave up a couple more, and eventually prevailed, off of two solo homers in the seventh. 8-7 final score. Seven straight wins. Huzzah. (And they won today, too.)
Just a wee Bic pen scribble, photographed, and digitally coloured.
Last night was the first time I’ve been to a game with someone who doesn’t really know anything about baseball. My friend and Spanish teacher Gina and I decided to do a bit of two-way learnin’. I could try and speak in Spanish, and teach her some basics about baseball. It was kinda fun. Especially as she seemed to enjoy the game. One of the first things I mentioned about the game was to keep her eye out, because foul balls could come into the stands and it would hurt, but, “I’ve never been near one, so, y’know, it’s not likely.” Several innings and beers later, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I trot down the steps towards the exit as a ball is fouled out and flies up over my head, hits a seat, and lands near my feet. I lean down like a Victorian lady picking up a fallen apple from her orchard, and continue my trip to the gents.
It seems like balls here have the Liga Mexicana logo rubber-stamped rather than properly printed.
It was my first ever foul ball. But foul balls are something I’ve thought a lot about. Especially here where the stands are often sparsely populated and I’m often sat in an area where a left-handed batter could ping one. I’m not a person who likes attention. When I get a haircut or a new shirt, I’m happiest when people don’t mention it at all. And I worry a lot about what I would do if a foul ball were to come near me. I’ve made a promise to myself that I won’t ever run for a ball. I’d walk if it were close. I’d never get into a situation where I am in battle with someone else for the ball: you can have it, dude, my dignity is more important than a second-hand baseball. I worry about the mocking jeers I’d get if a ball came right at me and I dropped it. And I always make a note of kids in the section to whom I could give the ball. (Unless the kid looks like a spoilt brat then fuck ‘em.) At a recent game sat in prime territory, there was a teenage with Down’s Syndrome nearby. I spent way way way too long debating with myself if it would be good or patronising to give a potential foul ball to him as there were no other children around. I think too much.
The orange mark on the ball is paint that came off of the seat on its way into my pocket.
As it happens, there were no kids near me when I got back to my seat last night. But there had already been some jeering. The worst possible thing happened. I got the ball, but I got a mild smattering of jeers for something completely out of my control. As I leant down to pick up the ball, a beer vendor on the steps behind me must’ve lunged to try and get it, but slipped and fell over. Not my fault. God’s honest truth, not my fault. And all that accumulated worry about what to do when I acquire a foul ball, well, I did nothing wrong but still had to listen to jeers. Maybe they were jeering at him for his dumb lunge, though. But my bladder didn’t know that.
I stood at the trough, back pocket bulging with its new leather and yarn goiter, legs shaking because of the nervous energy, and my bladder decided that he was not gonna comply with my wishes. I have a shy bladder in public bathrooms at the best of times. There’s no reason for it, just over time it’s become a mental block. At the Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005, I was busting for a slash at half time, but the bathrooms were really busy. I queued, waited my turn, then an opening appeared, got it out, and… nothing. C’mon Craig, you’ve been drinking all day, your bladder is the size of a Space Hopper: just go! Nothing. I spent the second half of the game, and the 30 minutes of extra time, and the penalty shoot out dying for a leak. But lately, I’ve noticed that thinking about defensive plays helps. “6-4-3,” I’ll mutter to myself. Wahey! If it needs more than a simple double play to get me going, I replay Jeter’s flip in the 2001 ALDS and that works a treat. But last night, nothing.
When I finally calmed down, I returned to the stands. The first person I saw was the lunging beer vendor. He smiled a big friendly smile. He shook my hand. We had a brief laugh. The nervy leg shakes disappeared. Sadly, the Diablos lost 8-7 despite a valiant effort, coming back from 7-1 down. So close to a fantastic comeback. But more importantly, Gina now knows that runners have to tag up.
So I called up the captain, “Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine”
Most of you, I presume, will recognise those lyrics from the Eagles’ most famous song, Hotel California. I like the song. I like it quite a lot actually. I’ve often imagined how satisfied they must’ve been when they first listened back to it in the studio. Must’ve been a good moment. I’m not really a lyrics kind of person. I don’t pay attention. I just sing along without really taking in the words that are coming out of my mouth. And only a couple of years back did I realise that my perception of the above words is totally skewed because of when I am listening to it. I’m listening to it in the first decade or so of the 21st century; 1969 is forty-one years ago. Why would anyone be order a wine that a hotel served forty-one years ago. Oh, err, the song was recorded in 1976, just seven years after 1969. So, not such a big deal. Although, Messrs Frey and Henley, wine is not a spirit, you buffoons.
And while we’re on the topic of years in songs, in Somethin’ Else by Eddie Cochran, he mentions that his “car’s out front and it’s all mine, just a ’41 Ford not a ’59.” Putting this in a 2011 context would mean Eddie owns a 1993 Ford. Probably a Fiesta, I’d imagine.
There are probably more examples. (That’s your cue to leave a comment if you think of any.)
Like the up-to-the-minute fella I am, I’ve recently been enjoying the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album. Quite good. And I’m especially enjoying hearing an accent similar to my own. Well, it’s not the accent, it’s the words, and some of the pronunciation. Phrases like “got a face on” totally remind me of being back home. And the song title “Mardy Bum” makes me smile no end. And hearing the word “doesn’t” pronounced like “dunt” and, in the same vein, “couldn’t” becomes a word that most people find rather rude.
Long weekend here, like most Easter-celebrating countries (although, interestingly, the weekend here was Thursday-Sunday, not Friday-Monday) so I got out of the city for a couple of days. Went to a town called Puebla which is a couple of hours away, east-southeast of here. I went with my pal Sam and his parents. We went because we wanted to see some baseball. 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. Sam and his dad are Tigres de Quintana Roo fans, and they were the visiting team, in town to play the Pericos (Parrots) de Puebla.
Up at 6.30 am on Friday to meet Sam, get the Metro to a bus station, then bounced along the road in the fairly filthy bus seats (felt dirty and damp like when you’ve worn the same pair of jeans for way too long) to his folks’ place north of here in a tiny village called Oro del Agua. Uchepos (in the same family as tamales) for breakfast, and we were off on the fairly new road that skirts the city. And considering it was a holiday, the road was pretty darn empty. A nice trip through the yellow-ochre countryside, past Popocatapetl and Iztaccihuatl, a pair of big volcanoes, and into the Puebla metropolitan area.
Puebla is the fourth largest city in Mexico, but as a weekend visitor, one didn’t really get that feeling. All I saw was the cute downtown area and the view from a taxi window as we went back and forth to the ballpark. We dumped our stuff at the hotel, and went straight out to walk around and get some food. The downtown area is old and pretty. Apparently, Puebla is famous for it’s crafts and tiled buildings. Lots of very beautiful pottery and stuff. And the tiled buildings were lovely. In fact, lots of pretty buildings.
We went to eat at a place called Mesones Sacristía. And I ate my favourite Mexican dish, mole poblano, which originated in Puebla. Fa fa fa fucking delicious it was, too. That big lump under the brown sauce is a chicken breast. That some big ol’ chicken titty right there.
I was stuffed after that. But, one must solider on, and soldier on I did. To the ballpark for some baseball watchin’. 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 major leagues 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 the third base line. 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.
Feeling not that great after a belly full of mole and cervezas, bought some Tums, and we had another wee walk around. Lots of tourists. A fair amount of Americans and Europeans in town, too. Still, it was Easter, and it was around 9 pm and a lot of restaurants were closed, so we sat down on plastic seats next to a woman making chalupas on the street. I have a bit of a thing about having dirty or sticky hands. And watching this woman make chalupa after chalupa with greasy hands made me cringe, just thinking about what it would be like. Pretty tasty stuff, mind.
An early night, which was a good thing, seeing as though around eight in the morning, a loud van kept driving down the street. It was selling gas and blaring music and shouting that gas was for sale. Huevos mexicano for breakfast, and then we went on a tour bus around the city. Look! A church! And an old building! And another! All pretty, and it’s a nice quick way to see the city, but my mind tends to turn off and focus on other things. Tthat handmade sign, the table in the room, that guy’s jeans, and—who am I kidding?—the view of that woman’s cleavage from the top of this open-top bus.
Time for more baseball. My Tigres-supporting pals were 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: they give you the can.
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.
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 a Montreal 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 Expos 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. (Just in case: the batter’s eye is a dark area behind the outfield fence so that when the pitcher throws the ball, the batter has a better view of it; kinda like the white screen they use in cricket.) 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. Taxi back to the hotel, Sam and I bid farewell to his folks who were staying another night, and we hoped in a taxi to the bus station to come back to the big city. On the bus they showed the film Are We Done Yet? starring Ice Cube and John C. McGinley. Even dubbed into Spanish, it was fairly easy to see it was a shit film.
(One thing that is interesting for me about this blog post is that I wrote it after doing the purely baseball post, parts of which are incorporated here, that I posted on Flip Flop Fly Ball. I find this blah-de-blah non-baseball writing so much easier to do.)
Published July 5th, and pre-order-able of course. More info here.
Drawing of former baseball manager, Lou Piniella. More finger painting here.
I’ve been living in a new neighbourhood for two weeks now. And it’s pretty darn nice. The only real gripes I had about my old place—the rather-too-often lack of water, and the consistent organ grinder outside the window—are obviously gone, and in their place… well, I live on a fairly quiet street now. And the water works. Not only does it work, but it’s en suite. Yep, I have an en suite bathroom. And because it’s a pretty new building, my room very much feels like a hotel room. Small balcony where I can smoke. Wardrobe with sliding doors and some shelves for my caps and books. It is an utter joy having an en suite bathroom, though. To be able to stumble out of bed and know that nobody is going to be taking a dump when I want to shower is awesome.
Aside from the stuff indoors, there’s goodness outside, too. My new local Starbucks is only a couple of minutes walk away. This is something that makes me happy. Although the people who work at this one get things wrong a lot. At least twice they’ve announced a drink that I didn’t ask for, and when I told them that I ordered something different, they’ll quizzically look at the cup, and say that, yep, this is your drink. And they get my name wrong pretty darn often:
The neighbourhood has a lot of streets named after writers. It does kinda make stuff easy for me to remember, I must say. And I also get to feel a little bit of Lincolnshire pride when I walk around. Two streets are named after fellow Yellow Bellies: Tennyson and Isaac Newton.
It’s a weird thing, pride. I don’t often feel pride for places. When people I meet talk glowingly about the UK, I point out its flaws. When people ask about Lincoln, I usually use the words “small” and “boring” somewhere in the sentence. I try my hardest to not care about the England national football team. National pride seems like a ridiculous concept to me. I am proud that I come from a country that produced the Beatles, David Hockney, and “Fawlty Towers”; but why should that be more important than being proud of a continent that produced Kraftwerk, Yves Klein and “À bout de souffle”? And if I’m proud of being European, why stop there? Why not just be proud of being part of a pretty darn creative human race? Having said all of that, I do feel a bit of pride knowing that two streets in my neighbourhood are named after people from my county.
And while I’m on the subject of street names. My new street is a side street off a bigger street, Campos Eliseos. Those of you who are more cultured than I will immediately recognise that name as being the Spanish language version of Champs Élysées. Me, though, I am just stupidly happy to live near a street called Elysian Fields because that was the name of the place where organised baseball was first played in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.
And while we are talking about based balls, I’ve done a few things lately on Flip Flop Fly Ball: a chart about the 2010 Seattle Mariners pitching rotation; another about Manny Ramirez’s brief career with the Tampa Bay Rays; and tying all things up neatly (baseball and Lincolnshire), I noticed a similarity between a photo of Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis and an old promotional poster for the glorious seaside resort of Skegness: Side by side and animated. And, from a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to mention it here; and tying different things together again (baseball and the name of my nearby street), an iPad drawing called 1846: A Hoboken Odyssey. Fairly simple, really; a drawing based on the Elyisan Fields mixed up with the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Because, y’know, it’s the dawn of baseball, innit?
Two baseball games in one day. Heaven. Wee write up here.
There have been three new posts about my recent visits to Diablos Rojos baseball games over on the front page of Flip Flop Fly Ball. There’s a new drawing and a chart, too. I dunno, I get the distinct feeling no-one reading this cares about baseball, so I’m less inclined to put it up here and listen to the tumbleweed. It’s all over there at FFFB now.
In less that two weeks, something will begin that I never ever imagined I’d care about. In less that two weeks, I’ll begin my seventh season caring about that thing. That thing is baseball. Specifically Major League Baseball; played by all but one of its 30 teams in the United States. In 2005, I went to a game with friends at Yankee Stadium. And since then, my interest and love of the game has grown and grown. I did some drawings, some charts and graphs, made a Web site about the game, and last year, wrote/drew/infographicised a book about the game. That book, fine and distinguished credit card owners that you are, will be published on July 5th. The game, though, isn’t solely played within the borders of the United States and in Toronto. It’s played in Japan, and more pertinently for me, in Latin America.
Before we go on. Seeing as though the readership of this blog is shrinking and shrinking I imagine those who are bored of reading about baseball will have stopped paying attention by now, so I’m going to stop doing that thing I occasionally do: apologising for writing about baseball. If you’ve stuck around this long and are still reading, I’m gonna guess that you either a) like baseball and like reading about it, or b) just skip the baseball stuff without deleting the RSS subscription in your news reader thingy.
As I said, the Major League Baseball season begins in less that two weeks. But the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol season began on Saturday. Mexican baseball is what I will mostly be watching this season. It is Triple-A calibre baseball. That, in football (soccer) terms is like the second division. But more than that, it’s baseball in a different country. A different culture. And while it would be stupid to pretend I wouldn’t rather be watching the New York Yankees playing the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, I now have the opportunity to do something I’ve never really done before: support a local team.
I grew up a Liverpool F.C. fan living in Lincoln, so that was television fandom on the whole. There was one season (1987-88) when, as a newly solvent teenager with a job in the warehouse of my local Asda supermarket, I went to a fair few Lincoln City F.C. games. But apart from that, I’ve always supported from afar. I tried to get into Hertha B.S.C. in Berlin, but it never really became more than a passing interest. Since then, having started enjoying baseball, I’ve been a fan of a team in a city that I’ve visited more than any other, and after that initial exposure in 2005, have returned to New York on trips timed around series of Yankees home game in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. (For reasons I always seems to be mentioning, I didn’t see go to Yankee Stadium in 2010, and I doubt I’ll go again this season either.) I spent last summer in Toronto watching the aforementioned only non-U.S.-based MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I went to 32 Blue Jays games, and I enjoyed getting to know their team better, but I could never really be a fan, because they are division rivals of the Yankees.
But this season could be different. I’m in a different country, there’s a baseball league, and I live in a city with a team in that league. So it’s time for me to become a Diablos Rojos del México fan. (The irony is not lost on me that my new local baseball team is called the Red Devils, and, as a Liverpool fan, I fucking loathe the English football team with that nickname.) And on Saturday, I went to the game, the inauguración temporada. Not only was it season opener, it was the guerra civil, the civil war. Diablos Rojos were playing Tigres de Quintana Roo, a team that until 2001 played in Mexico City. I guess it’s the Yankees-Red Sox of Mexican baseball.
My mate Scott was here visiting for the weekend. He’s also a baseball fan, so we went along early to soak things up. The Metro journey wasn’t so full of fans, but the close we got, the more noticeable they were. And there were fans of both teams. On the pedestrian overpass approaching Foro Sol, the Diablos’ ballpark, I saw what I assume were a father and son. The son had a pinstripe Yankees jersey with GEHRIG 4 written on the back in faded black marker pen. The father, again in a Yankees home jersey, had JOHONSON 51 on the back. This sent my mind darting around, like old documentary film of room-sized computers with lights flashing and tape reels spinning around. If, as I suspect, this was meant to be a Randy Johnson jersey, it was a) spelled wrong, and b) has the wrong number. Randy did wear number 51 for the vast majority of his major league career. Apart from his first few games with both the Expos in 1988 and the Mariners in 1993, the only time he didn’t wear number 51 was for his two seasons with the Yankees, where he wore 41. This was because tip-top coming-to-the-end-of-his-career-Yankee-player Bernie Williams already wore 51.
From the overpass, the outside of the stadium looked pretty busy. Lots of people milling around. Scott and I began taking note of the MLB teams represented with caps and jerseys of fans. In the end we saw merchandise of all but four of the major league teams (no Mariners, Marlines, Rockies, or Royals). But, of course, most people there were Diablos fans. The place, though, did have what I’d estimate was about 10-20% Tigres fans. I’d bought tickets in advance, and my crappy Spanish had thought I’d bought tickets in a decent, shaded section behind the infield. Not so. I’d bought tickets for the concrete bleachers that extended along the first base line in the outfield. Can’t grumble, though, considering the price: 30 pesos (2.50 US dollars/1.52 British pounds/1.76 euros/0.00175 gold ounces).
We were there early enough to sneak into the better section, though. Flashing the tickets at an usher, talking in English, he let us through to go and look in the Diablos store, which was fairly sparingly stocked. Even though a lot a Diablos fans had a lot of different era jerseys and caps, the store only seemed to sell the most recent items, sadly. I could really go for one of these 1980s era caps.
Having gotten ourselves into the area of the park where we could access the better seats, we sat down, got a beer and I did something that one doesn’t get to do very often at a sports venue these days: had a cigarette. No smoking ban here. Joy. Because it was the first day of the season, the players of both teams were all announced one by one.
They lined up along the base paths, and then la popular actriz mexicana Carmen Salinas wobbled onto the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In the outfield, a brass band stood erect waiting their moment. The loud voice through the PA system announced that we should stand for the anthem. And… it was really quiet. The band were quite far away and not mic-ed up. As the anthem progressed, the spectators picked up the slack and started singing along. There a few fireworks, too. And they looked as good as fireworks always tend to look in daylight: rubbish.
After the anthem, and as the players warmed up, my Mexican pal Samuel called me. Running late, where are you? I went down to meet them, but the usher wasn’t letting them sneak through. So we went to join them in the section we’d actually paid to watch from. There was a bit more space there, too, considering that a few members of Sam’s family were joining us. We sat on the not-as-uncomfortable-as-I’d-imagined concrete bleachers, drank Coronas, ate esquites, smoked cigarettes, chatted, and enjoyed baseball. Lovely, lovely baseball.
The Diablos got off to a good start with a three-run home run in the first. Tigres came back with four runs in the third, Diablos getting another in the bottom of the third, tying it up.
A couple here, a couple there, afternoon gave way to evening, and it was tied 6-6 at the end of the ninth, so we got some free baseball. An extra inning. Tigres got two runs, which the Diablos couldn’t match. So my first game of the season, my first proper game as a fan was a defeat. The smattering of Tigres fans amongst the 28,700 crowd (a new LMB attendance record) made some noise. ¡Ti-gue-res! ¡Ti-gue-res! Turning a two syllable word into a three syllable word for better chanting opportunities. Time for some tacos.
My new team will be playing on the road until next Tuesday. But they’ve won the three games they’ve played since that first game against the Tigres. But I’ll be there again on Tuesday evening, hoping to see the Diablos beat Vaqueros Laguna (Laguna Cowboys). I think I’m going to enjoy baseball here.
This is a drawing I did towards the end of last year. It’s former L.A. Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, and poet Robert Frost. I did this drawing for the mostly-about-baseball website Pitchers and Poets. In the end, they just used the figures without the background, but I still like it, so here ’tis.