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Baseball at its Best... Los Guerreros De Oaxaca

an article on baseball in Oaxaca by author Alvin Starkman of Casa Machaya
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Where else but in Mexico can you park two blocks away from the ballpark, buy a pair of field level seats beside the dugout, eat a personal size pizza, have a beer, pastry, lollipop and tic-tacs, and be entertained for more than three hours during a warm, breezy evening, all for about $15 USD.

The Mexican baseball season begins in March, with Oaxaca’s team (the Guerreros, being one of 16 in this two division league) starting it’s first home series on the 22nd, at the Lic. Eduardo Vasconcelos stadium, a short walk from downtown. My wife and I attended our first game ever last season, and were thoroughly impressed, not without noting some both interesting and amusing differences as compared to attending Skydome (now known as The Rogers Centre) to see the Toronto Blue Jays. I preface my comments by indicating that the league is equivalent to Triple A, meaning that the quality of play is extremely good, with potential and former Major Leaguers on the teams…in 2005 the Guerreros had Felix Jose, former quality batter for the Cardinals in the early 90’s.

Last year I had attended at the park to buy tickets a couple of days in advance of the scheduled game, wanting to ensure that I got premium seats, only to be told that tickets go on sale at 4 pm, game day. To my surprise, the ticket wicket opened shortly before the hour. My wife asked for a pair of “the best”. When she returned to the car, I noticed that the 55 peso tickets did not appear to be in sequence, so I sent her back to inquire, and exchange the seats if necessary. I was right…one seat was a row above the other. Who knew that when you ask to buy a pair of tickets, you should stipulate that you want them beside each other? The attendee gave my wife a hard time, but finally relented and exchanged the seats.

We returned to the park for the 7:30 opening pitch, easily finding a parking space on the street…no $20 charge to park in a lot. But where exactly were our seats? We asked no less than four stadium employees, no one being able to point us to our seats, until finally someone took the effort to direct us appropriately. WOW. Not only field level beside the visitors’ (Mexico City) dugout, but covered in the unlikely event of a drizzle, and alongside the bull pen.

The game followed the typical AL format, with designated hitter (Felix Jose for the Guerreros), and the announcer doing the same job as his counterpart in the Majors, not without prefacing each upcoming batter’s name and position with an advertisement for one of the numerous sponsors whose presence is up front and center, both on the players’ uniforms and across the field walls. The scoreboard provided no surprises, but it took a while to figure out some of the positions of the players by merely seeing the letter designations…no problem with SS, 1B, 2B and 3B. But what about JI, CF and JD? I thought I had it down pat with the Center Fielder, but the other two threw me off. Then the announcer introduced the Right Fielder, the Jardinero Derecho (JD), which literally translates to “Right Gardener”. It made sense after a moment since he does tend to the grass in right field…but why is the Center Fielder’s position not similarly adapted to the Mexican style of designation? All fell into place in short order, with each player having a number on his jersey, but with VOLKSWAGEN being the only name appearing on the backs.

The ten cheerleaders were a pleasant surprise, doing an admirable job, albeit neither choreographed nor synchronized as well as in the NFL or NBA. However, what a treat to see these young women at the ballpark with a bit of flesh on their bodies, instead of the anorectic look which we have become accustomed to see and regretfully accept north of the border. The music on the audio system was a unique mix of what one finds at MLB and NHL games with the standard “CHARGE” preambles and the like, traditional Oaxacan tunes including the Pinotepa, and well-known American and Canadian numbers by artists such as M.C. Hammer and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The fifth inning cleaning crew did their job, although without the Lone Ranger theme song to egg them on; there was the traditional on-field contest for the kids; and hawkers prevailed upon us to buy raffle tickets.

While I must confess that while baseball is the most boring of the main North American spectator sports (the list in descending order being basketball, hockey, football, soccer and baseball), since the gradual changeover in Major League ballparks to permitting the consumption of alcoholic beverages I’ve come to enjoy getting out to the game from time to time to chat with a friend or business associate, soak up some rays and fresh air (when the retractable dome in Toronto has been left open), and have a beer and my fill of dogs, doughnuts and deliciously rich ice cream bars. Pigging out Oaxacan style proved to be similarly orgasmic, although not being able to imbibe a mezcalito or three does put a damper on the libido. There was the tempting taco stand a few steps from our seats, in addition to the customary vendors winding their way through the stands. The range of fare includes, naturally Corona, soft drinks, hot tacos by the plastic and foil wrapped plateful, warm personal size boxed Domino’s Hawaiian pizza with all the ketchup packages you want, a wide variety of cellophane packaged nuts, seeds and dried fruit colorfully presented on a display card, esquites (piping hot large corn kernels in a Styrofoam cup topped with mayonnaise, chili powder, lime and grated cheese), as well as the typical street corner stand items including gum, chocolates, hard candies and cigarettes.

Perhaps the greatest similarity to attending an MLB game was that the home team lost… just like in Toronto after the two aberrations in the early 90’s. While I wouldn’t expect that attending a Guerrero game would be on a list of priorities for tourists spending only a week in the city, for both residents and travelers vacationing here for longer stays baseball in Oaxaca provides an entertaining and relaxing way to spend a few hours. The regular season runs through the end of July, with the four playoff series beginning thereafter, running through the beginning of September. You can attend at the stadium to learn more about the promotions including T-Shirt and Cap days, and Mothers Day and Fathers Day,

Alvin Starkman is a former Torontonian who gave up his Raptor and Maple Leaf season tickets in favor of taking up residence in Oaxaca. He and his wife run a B & B known as Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed and Breakfast.

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