Friday, May 19, 2017

1,000th BBM post coming Monday: A look back

Sometimes stream-of-consciousness writing goes sideways, especially when you go into it without an exit strategy.  That’s what happened when I first wrote this story on Friday and ended up with over 1,500 words.  Too much, so I’m rewriting the piece using the self-imposed, 800-word limit Rick Reilly employed writing for Sports Illustrated and ESPN.  What better example than (IMHO) the best American sports columnist of our generation?

This was just going to be a “between-jobs” creative outlet in 2005, something exotic (to me) to write about for the OurSports Central site while looking for radio work.  Instead, in 2017, I’m five years removed from my last radio gig while after a pair of time-outs (one for 3+ years), I’m committed to Baseball Mexico for the long haul.  While composing a column sitting next to my mother in a hospital bed the night she died, I knew that writing about Mexican baseball was something I wasn’t going to let go of even as I was struggling with having to let Mom go, a struggle that continues.  My mistake in 2012 when we thought we were going to lose Mom was dropping Baseball America instead of seeing it as the oasis it is.

Monday will mark Baseball Mexico’s thousandth post since 2009, when it was revived and renamed from Viva Beisbol (itself renamed from Pelotero after two or three weeks in 2005...Pelotero is still my favorite name but least-understood by Anglos like me).  It’s all been quite a ride, with lots of excitement interspersed with disappointment along the way.  Even though there’ve been decisions that haven’t worked out and I’ve made less than $1,000 total over twelve years, I don’t regret the decision to cover baseball south of the border in the first place, even though it wasn’t my first choice at the time.

I’d written for OSC before, including covering the Pacific Coast League’s 2001 season, but wanted to write about something different in 2005 after losing a radio job in Washington state.  After first floating the idea of covering cricket and then pitching Japanese baseball (both were turned down by OSC editor/webmaster Paul Reeths in Wisconsin), we settled on the Mexican League because it is an official Class AAA baseball circuit.  I figured the LMB season would run into August, by which time I should have a new radio job to concentrate on.  I did land a radio job, but I also discovered something about Mexican baseball: I was fascinated by it and didn’t want to stop writing about it.

If you’ve read BBM for any real length of time, you know that baseball in Mexico is not the same as baseball in the United States.  Even though the Mexican League is indeed a AAA league, there is no other loop in Minor League Baseball with the Liga’s autonomy.  It’s a different world down there, sort of like the minors were before Branch Rickey invented the farm system.  The results are often confounding but rarely boring, and the fact baseball is played year-round between the LMB and the Mexican Pacific League (which has become a juggernaut in recent winters) means there’s almost always a game going on.  Mexico is Baseball Heaven.

As mentioned, there’ve been disappointments over the years, but two individuals have done more than anyone to keep my flame burning when it’s flickered.  Jim McCurdy is a retired college professor in Texas who played semipro ball in Mexico and has always been a source of encouragement.  Everyone needs an El Profe in their life and I’ve been blessed to have Jim in mine since VB's earliest days.  Then there’s Carlos Fragoso in Mexico City.  

Sometimes I think Carlos knows everyone in Mexican baseball and maybe he really does.  When Craig Tomarkin added Viva Beisbol to his Baseball Guru website, Carlos was the Guru’s “Latin Insider” who reported on Mexican baseball.  Far from being resentful of a gringo invading his territory, Carlos was supportive from the start and his personal kindness over the years would take up an entire column.  I can’t describe how much these two guys have meant to both me and VB/’s very possible I wouldn’t be here without them.

By the way, Carlos is running for president of the Olmeca Little League in Mexico City, the largest LL in Mexico.  The election is Sunday and while I try to keep BBM as politics-free as possible (don’t we sometimes turn on a ballgame for three hours WITHOUT politics?), I will wholeheartedly endorse Carlos Fragoso for that job.  So does Tomas “Tommy al Bat” Morales, who’s still writing about baseball after more than 65 years and is a national treasure as well as a full member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.  If Carlos is good enough for Tommy…

Finally, thanks to you for reading BBM.  I hope that my love for writing, baseball and Mexico shows through.  We should always follow our passions, and I get to follow three. Even though this has been an awful year personally, I’m so lucky that I can do this and that someone like you actually reads it.  Monday may be BBM’s thousandth post, but it’ll be far from the last.