Writing > José

March 9, 2012: José

Tigres de Quintana Roo 6 Selección de la Liga Centropolitana 2
2:30pm Wednesday March 8, 2012

A second pre-season game for the Selección de la Liga Centropolitana, which is, apparently, something to do with baseball played by the people who run the subway system here. Last week, they took on the local Mexican League side; this time, the defending champions, Tigres de Quintana Roo.

It's kind of a nice park, this Fray Nano. Much smaller than Foro Sol the main park in the city, but Foro Sol is a shit hole. A big concrete mess, where baseball seems to be an after thought, cos I'm quite sure the main income for the venue is from the big concerts held there. Shakira, U2, Radiohead, Bieber, that kinda stuff. But this Fray Nano, it feels more like other Mexican League baseball parks. I've only ever been to one park outside of Mexico City (something I intend to rectify this season), but looking at photos, they seem more like crumbly minor league parks. Foro Sol feels a bit sterile. It'd be great to see the Diablos playing games at Fray Nano. But, I doubt that will happen. The first thing I saw as I approached the park: one of the Selección players snogging with a girl up against the side of an ambulance parked behind the stand. That doesn't happen at Fenway Park. At least I assume it doesn't. And now, in my head, I've got the image of John Lackey, y'know, making out... shudder...

Free entry just like last week. The PA system played Sousa's "The Liberty Bell" (theme tune of Monty Python's Flying Circus). And like pretty much everyone in the place, the first thing I did was scan the players on the field to see if I could see José Canseco. Nope. Not sprinting in the outfield. Not tossing a ball around. Not doing stretches.

As first pitch time approaches, the announcer guy announces the Selección de la Liga Centropolitana players. They line up in their kinda-ugly yellow jerseys between first and second base. There are somewhere in the region of 680 players on their team. They didn't all fit between first and second. The announcer then announced the Tigres players. There were a fair few Tigres fans in the crowd (they used to play in Mexico City before upping sticks to go and play in Cancún). The fans cheered each player. But there was a feeling, that we were all waiting for that one player. But, there was no sign of Canseco.

Biggest applause of the whole afternoon was for Chaco, the Tigres mascot, who, unsurprisingly, is a tiger.

Midway through the game, there was a ripple in the crowd. People nudged their friends, others noticed, and eventually, we were all paying way more attention to the head and shoulders of a man sat near the bench than we were to the game itself. Photographers crowded around. A guy with a lanyard fielded autograph requests from kids sat on top of the dugout; taking balls and pens, passing them to Canseco, waiting a moment, then returning the balls and pens to the kids. Lanyard guy took people's cameras and took photos of Canseco. He even took someone's iPad to take a photo, which is one of those things that will never ever not look utterly ridiculous. All this was going on while Canseco's teammates were on the field.

José was wearing a Tigres uniform. Jersey number 00. Shame that he's sitting out this game, I guess, but maybe he'll be on the squad for the Diablos' home opener against the Tigres in two weeks. Maybe...

The guy sat next to me in the seat-less concrete stands was wearing a replica of the pinstriped 1916 Yankees cap. I was wearing a Yankees cap, too (2009, with the new stadium patch on the back). We'd exchanged a hello when he sat down next to me, but not really said anything else. When a beer vendor came 'round, I bought a Dos Equis. My neighbor bought a Sol. And he bought me a Dos Equis. Yep. I had just bought a beer, yet he decided to buy me another. It was party due to the vendor's lack of change, but jolly friendly all the same. We exchanged some chit-chat throughout the rest of the game. I bought him a beer the next time the vendor came around, and he gave me some peanuts from a little plastic bag that he'd brought with him. He told me his name. Jorge. Then repeated the anglicized version. George. Later, he said we shoud have a beer at the home opener. I concurred. He gave me his card so we could arrange it. The card said his name was José. So either a) he lied about his name, or b) he gave me someone else's card from his wallet by mistake.

In Mexico City, one sees a fair few street vendors selling bootleg DVDs. I have bought their wares, Hollywood. It's kinda difficult to feel bad about doing so when you see, as I did soon after arriving in Mexico, a policeman browsing and buying bootleg DVDs at a market downtown. But I've not seen anyone ever selling bootleg gear in a stadium before. A woman had a suitcase on wheels, which she was carting around, up and down the aisles. The suitcase was full of DVDs with color photocopied slips of paper inside a slip of cellophane. She got closer. A guy a few rows down on the other side had a browse, and I could see the sort of thing she had for sale. A lot of movies (Moneyball, Sugar, 61*, The Jackie Robinson Story, Mr. Baseball, Major League: Back to the Minors), and other more curious things with team logos on the front. I stopped her as she came up the steps and had a look at a bunch of them. Loads of Serie Mundial DVDs. 15 pesos a piece, I bought one which has a bunch of highlights from World Series 1962-2004, and three individual game discs: game three of the 1981 World Series (Fernando Valenzuela's start vs. the Yankees), and games from the 1990 Reds-Athletics series, and the 1993 Blue Jays-Phillies series. (Not sure which games they are: I've not checked yet, and the paper sleeves give no clues.)

Despite spending a few innings 2-1 down, in the end, the Tigres won 6-2. Both sides showed off their rusty fielding skills along the way, and after the last out, José Canseco left the bench and walked along the line of team-mates high-fiving and stuff. Only when I got home, mildly tipsy from an afternoon's boozing, did I see why Canseco wasn't playing.