I'm stopped at the corner of 35th and Shields, and I'm inviting you all on for a ride. For a very limited time, tickets are free. Later on, they will cost you a large pile of crow.
Last night I went to what I expected to be an interesting but ultimately meaningless exhibition game between the Diamondbacks and the Mexican National team here in Tucson.
It was a little odd to begin with, because whereas I'm usually the one buying and scheduling all spring-training activities, this one was organized by my in-laws. My wife is 1st generation Mexican-American. Her parents speak little English, and while they like baseball, they really don't care a whole lot for the D-Backs.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when my wife said, my parents really want us to go the baseball game tonight-- can we go? Of course, I don't mind seeing 2 games in one day.
My in-laws didn't know anything concrete about the WBC. They certainly don't care about Justin Upton. All they knew, and somehow word had gotten around EVERYWHERE, that the green uniforms were coming out tonight and Mexican pride was on the line. Attendance was announced at over 11,800, which is PACKED for Tucson Electric Park, and there weren't a whole lot of tourists around. (They wouldn't even let you park if you didn't have a ticket) Gone was the Sox gear, the Cubs t-shirts. Here and there a D-Backs cap. The stands sold out of Mexico paraphernalia in 30 minutes.
Just imagine this. My mother-in-law is in her 60's, a tuft of snow-white hair, very matronly, very quiet, very kind. Why is she sitting through this otherw ise meaningless baseball game with white knuckles? Why is she standing with 11,800 other screaming fans when some unheralded career Mexican-Leaguer from Veracruz smacks a grand slam in the 8th inning?
Now picture this. Just last week my mother-in-law went to Best Buy to return a brand-new coffee machine that didn't work. She'd had it for three days. Imagine the humiliation when the racist bitch at the customer service counter won't giver her a refund, claiming that the machine is "used". My suegra knows the machine isn't used, knows she's getting screwed but can't speak the language well enough to deal with the situation. My wife has to call Best Buy the next day to talk to the chain of command. Only then does my mother-in-law finally get her refund. Plus a $20 gift certificate because the situation makes management kinda nervous. These people are supposed to get screwed and go away.
I think of this as I'm sitting on a blanket in the general admission area with my in-laws and thousands of other Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. I think of it again when I see a guy run from the concourse down into the expensive seats behind the Mexican dug-out to start a Spanish chant, and pretty soon the stadium is echoing with enthusiasm.
It's pretty obvious in the game itself, which is close, controlled, and well-payed throughout. It doesn't feel like a spring training game. I've been to enough spring training games to know.
And the sprinkling of gringo fans picked up on it too, starting a quiet but noticeable chant of USA-USA after Garcia's grand slam.
Somehow, this game was important. It had nothing to do with WHIP, OBP, Win Shares or ERA+. It was all about the intangibles, about culture, about pride, about a million other things you have to feel to understand.
Mark my words, the WBC will be important, because to the Mexicanos, Dominicanos, Puerto Riquenos, Cubanos, Venezolanos etc, beating the US is important. They will come to play, and I'm predicting someone other than Team USA will win. All of a sudden, the babbling idiots at ESPN will wonder what is going on.
By then there will be no room on the bus.