Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2003 Upper Deck 40-Man, Jeremy Hill (and baseball in Tijuana)

#250 Jeremy Hill

Here is the second and final card that I got signed by Jeremy Hill in Tijuana in 2008. The first card can be seen here. Like I said in that post last week, I'm not going to say anything more about Jeremy. Instead, I am going to tell the tale of my experience of baseball in Tijuana.

In 2008, my good friend Dustin and I went on our longest ballpark trip to date. It was our first trip west of the Rockies and we ended up seeing games in ten ballparks in nine days. We spent a majority of the time in Southern California and I thought that it would be a shame to drive all that way and not see a game in Mexico. So, we added Estadio Calimax to our itinerary, the former home of the Mexican League's Potros de Tijuana.

We parked on the US side of the border and walked into Mexico. We messed around at all the border shops and restaurants for a bit before hopping into a taxi to the ballpark. The ballpark really wasn't much to see from the outside. It had a gated parking lot, so it was hard to get a good picture of the exterior. Since there wasn't much to see outside of the ballpark, we bought our 600 peso ticket ($6) and entered the ballpark.

I was kind of surprised to see security at the gate there. I had to get my bag checked just like I do at most American ballparks. After that, we were greeted by the Potros cheerleaders who tied some Potros bracelets to our wrists. The cheerleaders were a welcome sight even though it seemed a little unusual to have them at a ballpark. Oh well, I can think of worse things to see at a game.

After that, we entered the seating area to check it out and to get Jeremy Hill's autograph. The view from the stands at the ballpark is certainly unique. With the blown-up cans of Coke and Tecate to the two mountains in the backdrop, the ballpark has a distinct look that is unmatched by any American park that I have been to.

Here is a good look at the seating bowl. Seats range from concrete bleachers, to the weird green seats seen in the picture, to normal stadium seats behind the plate. We didn't have a clue where we were supposed to sit, so we spent most of our time in the weird green seats and the bleachers.

I was kind of surprised to see that the park actually had a video board. It wasn't a very good quality one, but they had one nonetheless. I have learned recently that the board came from old Foxboro Stadium, the former home of the New England Patriots.

As for the game itself, it was unlike anything that I have ever seen in the US or Canada. For starters, everything was in Spanish, which I don't speak. It wasn't a bilingual park like Olympic Stadium was. Everything was in Spanish. I didn't even bother keeping score since I could even understand the starting line-ups as they were announced.

The second thing that was strange and annoying was all of the music that they played. In the US, the home team players usually have an at-bat song or two that is played when they come up to bat. As soon as they get into the batters box, the music is cut off and you won't hear anymore until the next batter or a stoppage of play of some sort. Well, in Tijuana, they do things a little bit differently.

It seems that the team only had four songs to play at the game I was at and they played them almost non-stop. There was a Mexican song, an Eminem song, a Dr. Dre song, and a Limp Bizkit song and they were all unedited. That's right: F-bombs at the ballpark. They would play the music while the batter walked up to the plate and cut it off when the pitcher started his windup. As soon as that ball hit the catcher's mitt, the music was back on. They did that for the entire game. The music constantly played and the person in charge hit the mute button while the ball was in play. There was one time when a player walked to lead off an inning and he already had a 3-0 count on him before I realized that play had resumed. All of the music told me that we were still between innings and I had tuned out the PA announcer since I didn't understand a word he said.

Another interesting part about the park were the vendors in the seating bowl. They had some of the strangest things for sell that I have seen at a game. One thing that they sold was cigarettes, which you could smoke anywhere in the park. I had no idea what many of the vendors were selling, but I can tell you that it wasn't hot dogs. One vendor came by with souvenirs which included a five foot long plastic horn. I asked him about because if it had a Potros logo on it, I might have bought it. He pulls the thing out and blows through it to show me what it sounds like before offering to let me try. Obviously, I did not buy that horn and it wasn't because it didn't have a logo on it.

One of the funnier parts of the whole experience were the mascots. The main mascot was a horse (I think Potros translates into Colts) and he had the cheesiest outfit that I have ever seen at a professional game. I've seen high school mascots with better looking outfits than that.

Then, for a few innings, the horse went away and he was replaced by the Tijuana Chicken (that's what I call him at least). The costume was obviously based off the the San Diego Chicken, but I don't recall seeing the Tijuana Chicken do anything too funny.

After the 2008 season, the Potros moved out of Tijuana. The ballpark was supposed to resurrect the Potros last season and put them in the independent Golden Baseball League, but the swine flu scared them out of that. But, Tijuana did join the Golden League this season and named the team the Cimmarones. The team might be under a new name and in a new league, but I would doubt that the way they present the game has changed much. It might not have been the most ideal environment for watching baseball (to me at least), but it is definitely worth checking out just to say that you've done it.

So, if you ever get a chance to see a pro game in Mexico, you had better take advantage of it. You will be in for the most unusual ballgame of your life.


Paul said...

It sounds like an interesting time. If I ever get the chance, I'd love to see a game in Mexico. (I wonder if I remember enough Spanish to let me follow the announcements.)

Play at the Plate said...

That sounds crazy. My one and only experience in Tijuana was crazy and we went to see a Jai Alai match. That is the most rigged sport ever. At least the one we watched. Was that horn one of those things they were blowing on at the World Cup?

zman40 said...

I didn't watch the World Cup, so I don't know.

The jai-alai sounds like it might have been interesting, though (if it wasn't rigged).