It’s Monday morning, which means it’s time to finish packing my bag, check out, head to Tucson International Airport and fly back to Portland so I can drive home to the small town my wife Linda and I live in halfway between Portland and Seattle. The Mexican Baseball Fiesta concluded Sunday as the Mexicali Aguilas bombed the Obregon Yaquis 15-5 in the opener and the Hermosillo Naranjeros topped the Los Mochis Caneros, 7-2, in the second game, marking the last of four days and four doubleheaders at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium with four Mexican Pacific League teams providing the centerpiece to a weekend of entertainment. Although I began these missives with game reports that were drier than the Arizona air, I finally realized that I was missing the point: The MBF is more about attitude and atmosphere than balls and strikes. It was worth the trip on a number of levels.
Before I go any further, I should mention that THIS particular missive was intended for a Tuesday posting because I spent Sunday afternoon and evening moving around Kino Stadium with a camera instead of my Chromebook to take photos of numerous things to augment the Day Three Report. There is only so much a word picture can do for a reader, so I thought I’d give both my fingers and your sense of delirium from reading my text a break and despite having almost zero experience as a photog, I came away with what I think are 14 or 15 pretty good pictures to share. Unfortunately, my Kodak C195 camera and Chromebook aren’t playing nice with each other so I’ll have to wait to get home and use another laptop so I can post the pictures Tuesday instead. Sigh. If you're wondering why I have no game reports today, there you are. Consider it a blessing barely disguised.
Traveling to Tucson was not necessary, but I decided a few weeks ago that it would be a good chance to watch some of the teams and players I’ve been writing about off and on about since April 2005, when I covered the Mexican League for the OurSports Central website. It was only going to be for that one season but, obviously, it’s lasted a little longer than that. So I finally got to watch Mexican players like Pablo Ortega, Carlos Gastelum, Luis Alfonso Garcia, Carlos Valencia and Sergio Contreras, who were all active in 2005 when I first started writing about Mexican baseball along with others who’ve made their marks in recent years such as Jose Amador, Javier Solano, C.J. Retherford and Jason Bourgeois. As a baseball fan, it was a blast seeing guys I’d heretofore only read and written about over the past dozen years and I was rarely disappointed. These are good ballplayers, many of whom have played in the majors.
After a little initial confusion when I first arrived at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium last Thursday, I was able to get my media credential and attendant lanyard and headed up to the press box for my first night of covering Mexican baseball in person. At this point, I should say that Kino Stadium is a very nice facility, definitely AAA in quality. I was able to get a good location next to a television booth and did my writing on the first two nights from that vantage point. There isn’t a traditional roof over the main grandstand, so the press box is set above the concourse running behind the box seats behind home plate and above the concessions stands, meaning you’re set farther back from the playing field than the old-school press boxes you see atop grandstand roofs in older ballparks.
As far as attendance goes, I often saw what might be 200 people sprinkled through Kino Stadium at the start of the opening games (which always featured the champion Mexicali Aguilas throughout the weekend), with the stands filling gradually as the second game approached. Saturday night’s game between rivals Hermosillo and Obregon was easily the best-attended, with what I’d guesstimate as at least 5,000 people in the ballpark.
While play was going on, there were plenty of other things for attendees to take part in. While an actual ballgame in Mexico isn’t all that much different from what you’ll see in the States, the presentation in the stands can be a little different. While there was music pumped through the PA system throughout all the games, much like in the USA, the music consisted mostly of Mexican artists (as you’d expect) while English was rarely heard over the loudspeakers, mainly when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung.
What REALLY separated things were the live bands that would play after the games on the concourse next to the main grandstand on the first-base side. Although teams in the States often do a good job of creating a festive atmosphere during ballgames, they’ve got nothing on our neighbors south of the border. These folks know how to enjoy themselves. I’m hoping that more Tucsonans catch on to the Mexican Baseball Fiesta in the future because it goes beyond baseball and is well worth attending.
All in all, I’m glad I was able to make it down to Tucson to watch players I’ve become more familiar with over the years than their MLB counterparts in an atmosphere that reflects the culture of people who like to have a good time and know how to do it. Thanks to MBF co-founder and president Mike Feder for giving me press credentials so I could come in and describe this event to Baseball Mexico’s readers and a special thanks to Steve Rivera, a writer for the AllSportsTucson website and all-around good guy, for giving me a lift back to the Quality Inn I was staying at after the games. And kudos to the people in Tucson I had the chance to meet the past four days, from cab drivers to Quality Inn employees and the great staff at Kino Stadium. I can truthfully say that I didn’t meet one crabby person here in Tucson and that reflects well on the city. It’s a nice place to visit. But now it’s time to head home, where I can hopefully get those promised photos online Tuesday.
Then there are those Mexican Pacific League season openers next weekend to gear up for. As I’ve said many times before, Mexico represents Baseball Heaven because there’s never an offseason, and I'm glad I was able to indulge in a slice of it this weekend.