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The Mexican League

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2013_abril_tatots_596163538

My wife is a historian of Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico. So that means that I spend some time here when she is doing her work. Such is now. It’s not exactly a vacation, as I am finishing the edits on one book and the manuscript on another, but the work is interspersed with an amazing lunch every day, the likes of which you would be jealous of if you understood how awesome the food is in Oaxaca. Seriously, just put Oaxacan food in Google Images.

Anyway, Oaxaca is home to a Mexican League team, the Guerreros. And over the last two summers, I have had the great enjoyment of attending some games. The Mexican League is considered AAA level. I’d say this is a bit generous. There are decent number of ex-major leaguers in it. There are also some serious out of shape players and poor fundamentals at times. It’s probably more akin to AA except without the future stars that often play there. But it is quality baseball overall. A lot of pitchers throwing in the mid to high 80s with some hard throwing relievers who have too many control problems to stick in the majors.

Like in AAA games, one of the joys of seeing a Mexican League game is recognizing the ex-major leaguers. The Tijuana team for instance has a great collection of washed up major leaguers holding on, including Russell Branyan, Miguel Olivo (no word if he has bitten off the ear of any players yet), Jose Contreras, and Ramon Ortiz. That’s pretty sweet. The Guerreros are led by former Orioles catcher and Oaxaca native Geronimo Gil, who is now in his late 30s, really slow, but still has some pop. This team also has Eliezer Alfonso, who played a few years, mostly for the Giants and Padres and evidently with the Mariners but I don’t remember it. Last night, they were playing the Quintana Roo Tigres, a team noted for having the very tough home town to play in of Cancun. They were led by Karim Garcia plus 30 pounds since he last played in the majors a decade ago.

While you’d think the food at a Mexican League game would be great, especially in Oaxaca, you’d be wrong. Mostly it’s even worse versions of American ballpark food than you’d get in the U.S. Bad nachos, revolting looking hot dogs and the like. There are some standard empanadas you can get covered in onions that are OK. On the other hand, you can sit right behind home plate for 50 pesos (about $4) and buy a tallboy of Victoria for 30 pesos. So that ain’t bad.

And then there’s Tato and the cheerleaders. Tato is the mascot you see above. He is like a character The Simpsons would have created back when it was good in the 90s. He’s the mascot with big-time attitude. At one game last year, he was out between innings doing his thing. He pulled out a chair and sat on it. A female mascot that looked the same but with long hair came out. She then proceeded to give him a lap dance. This was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at a ball game. At another game, he put a can of silly string up to his crotch and sprayed it toward the fans behind home plate. The cheerleaders are a whole other deal. 6 or 7 young women wearing very skimpy costumes, doing dance routines a couple of times a game between innings, and getting their picture taken with young Mexican boys whose fathers are training them in heteronormativity. Or with the occasional American frat bros who show at the game and who make me want to be Canadian.

The game was pretty good. Despite the Quintana Roo pitcher having no control, he managed to go 5 innings and give up 1 run thanks to two of the worst baserunning mistakes I’ve ever seen live. The Tigres went up 4-1, but a 5 run 8th brought Oaxaca back. This was great because the crowd was going crazy. They have organized chants. A guy was playing a cowbell with a screwdriver handle (last year there was a very old man banging a drum the entire game. He wasn’t there this year, which worries me). They also started doing the Tomahawk Chop to stereotypical “Indian” music from westerns like they play at Braves and Florida St. games. Now this is interesting because here you have people engaging in Indian “savage” stereotypes which I hate–except that nearly everyone in that stadium was at least part is not full blooded indigenous. I don’t think they had any ethnic identity with North American Indians. It’s just what you did. Life is complicated.

Anyway, the Guerreros closer came in for the top of the 9th to Hells Bells. Not original but still effective. He got the 1st batter out easily and then the control went away big time. By the time there are 2 outs, Quintana Roo has scored a run and there are men on 2nd and 3rd. Karim Garcia is up. He hits a groundball to the first basemen. Slight bobble which means he can’t run it to 1st himself. The pitcher is slightly late getting to the bag. Bang-bang play but because Garcia can’t run anymore because he’s kind of out of shape, he’s out after sliding headfirst into the bag. Game over. Oaxaca wins 5-4.

Good times if you are ever in Mexico.

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  • c u n d gulag

    JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZOOOOOS, that sounds like a great time!

    I envy you, you SOB!

    I just don’t understand how the food at the ballpark couldn’t be great.
    Oh yeah…
    Owner’s maximizing profits.

  • rea

    It used to be possible to advance from the Mexican League to mlb. I was always a big fan of “El Buitre de Tecamachalco”

    • I think it still is possible and a few players get called up every year.

      Oaxaca has a sister team in the San Diego Padres. Not sure if this has any sort of real affiliation of players getting called up and sent down or not.

  • Johnnie

    When Hoffman was closing for the Brewers you would really dread that ‘Hell’s Bells’ intro music, because it was clear he was just closing so that he could hit 600 saves. You just prayed he got there quickly, not just because it meant more wins, but because it also meant a more competent closer could be used once he hit the milestone.

  • pg wooster

    Damn, you weren’t messing about that food. Instant drool response.

    edit: for context: live in Ireland, never had good mexican food.

    • There is no good Mexican food in Europe, largely because there are no Mexicans.

      • Greg Proops had a bit about that. Said it had to do with the way they pronounced things.

      • The Temporary Name

        Nachos in Lviv have all the dill you could ever hope for.

      • wjts

        Nonsense. Feast your eyes on this delectable plate of Mexican authenticity from Paris’s Cafe Indiana. Please note the deep-fried mozzarella sticks and bottle of ketchup.

    • JB2

      I haven’t been there in almost 15 years, but Rose’s Cantina in Amsterdam, in addition to being a fun place to hang out, had more than passable Mexican/Tex Mex foods.

      http://rosescantina.com

      • Gregor Sansa

        I notice you didn’t put “Oaxaca” in that sentence.

        I mean, hell, I love the food from Chiapas, Mexico City, Yucatan, Guatemala, and Alta California. But not one of them holds a candle to Oaxaca. And this is a vegetarian speaking, which means I can’t even eat 90% of the food from Oaxaca.

  • if that’s mrs. loomis with the mascot in the picture, i understand why you go to oaxaca so much.

    • It is a stock picture with one of the cheerleaders.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    He pulled out a chair and sat on it. A female mascot that looked the same but with long hair came out. She then proceeded to give him a lap dance. This was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at a ball game. At another game, he put a can of silly string up to his crotch and sprayed it toward the fans behind home plate. The cheerleaders are a whole other deal. 6 or 7 young women wearing very skimpy costumes, doing dance routines a couple of times a game between innings, and getting their picture taken with young Mexican boys whose fathers are training them in heteronormativity. Or with the occasional American frat bros who show at the game and who make me want to be Canadian.

    Are you sure you weren’t in TJ?

    • mōlli

      Trader Joe’s?

  • chris j

    My 11-year-old son is a baseball nut and is big fan of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the LA Dodgers AAA team. Their manager for several years was Lorenzo Bundy, who is now the Dodgers 3rd base coach. I got to know him a little. He coached/managed in the Mexican league for years and said it was great fun and generally pretty good quality baseball.

    • Jordan

      You mean the hunger strike didn’t work???

  • stryx

    Google Streetview is awesome for most of Mexico. Those fools went everywhere.

    Plenty of opportunity for armchair travel

    From Oaxaca
    http://goo.gl/maps/WQvIF

    http://goo.gl/maps/ctAmG

    Across the mountains

    http://goo.gl/maps/QgjBe

    And the occasional advertising sign

    http://goo.gl/maps/EbgAA

    http://goo.gl/maps/ntcZ2

    To the coast

    http://goo.gl/maps/M8uJy

    http://goo.gl/maps/zIyBU

    Plus you can see what Xoxocotlan looks like’

    http://goo.gl/maps/QYHjw

    Why yes, I am a fifth level geo-nerd. Why do you ask?

  • wengler

    Is the government still shooting teachers in Oaxaca?

    • The teachers have upped the ante since I’ve been here, occupying the zocalo. It is however now an open question whether they really have popular support, which they certainly did in 2007.

  • Marek

    Great writeup, I saw the Tigres a year or two ago, it was just as you say. 2000 people in the stands, 20,000 in the soccer stadium next door.

    • Interestingly, in Oaxaca the soccer team is very minor league and so baseball is the bigger spectator game in town it seems. Not the most popular, but as far as going to a game, it seems to be a bigger deal.

  • j_kay

    But you missed the scoop – it’s part of the Caribbean League. My hometown in Puerto Rico played the Mexico City Tomatocabezas when I was a kid. And Cuba and Hispaniola are also in.

    It’s far better than our league because it’s not just ONE-team domination. And there are MLB players playing in MLB’s offseason.

    • Interesting. I know nothing about this. Must investigate.

  • KadeKo

    While you’d think the food at a Mexican League game would be great, especially in Oaxaca.

    Some things are universal, like that food at a ballpark in Oaxaca (Philly, SF, Chicago) is still in a ballpark.

    I guess I’m more interested not in any snapshot,but the trend. Ballpark food in the places I’ve been, even A and AA, has gotten better in many places over the last 25-30 years. Is that the case in Oaxaca?

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