To this day, I don’t have any idea what was mentioned in that locker room chat after the fourteen inning game, but whatever it was – it worked. The team went on to win the semi-final series in seven games and advanced to the championship series against Tijuana. It was exciting for a few reasons. Firstly, baseball was about to be over in seven games or less. Secondly, Tijuana had Starbucks. Most of the towns we had traveled to were chalk full of taco stands and dirt, so coming across my beloved coffee shop on a paved walkway in Mexico was what I imagine walking through the gates of heaven to be like. Pure elation. I suppose I also had some excitement for the fact we were playing for the championship, but I wasn’t even sure what that meant. What did they win besides a pissing match? Bragging rights? Free tacos for a year? I wasn’t holding my breath for any sort of championship ring or monetary bonus. I was just hoping to get in and out of Tijuana with a trophy and my life. The horror stories I read about drug cartels in Tijuana (courtesy of Dad Vanier) were disturbing, but not quite enough to deter me from going. So with one day off between the last series and this one, we packed up our stuff and headed two and a half hours back into Mexico.
Up until the playoff series, I had never been to Tijuana or seen the stadium. Imagine my surprise when we got there for game one and saw this:
Luckily, I arrived with the team 700 hours before game time, so I had this whole sea of red seats to choose from before the influx of crazed Tijuana fans showed up. Someone had told me that tickets for these games were dirt cheap because the real operation for the field was money laundering for drugs and that’s why the games got so packed. I suppose it was possible but I chose to push that out of my mind, along with the rest of the nightmare-inducing articles my father had sent me, and focused on the nice quality of the field instead. I nestled into a nice front row chair behind the visitor’s dug out and prayed for sunset while I sat there sweating profusely. On top of that, and I’m not sure if you can tell, but those red chairs are made out of the same material as your kid’s Tonka trucks. They were situated on a slab of cement (probably with Elmer’s glue) about 12 inches from the ground so that sitting there with my three-inch platforms on, I was basically crouched into a cannonball position. Sitting there sweaty and balled up, I couldn’t help but to reminisce about my days of glory on the RV toilet. For such a nice field, you’d think they could have afforded some more ergonomic-friendly seating. Obviously Tijuana didn’t have a health and wellness department though. Can’t say that surprised me much. I really wanted to complain (per usual), but decided it was better to get a tan and some back-cramps than to get down-poured on while a baseball illiterate hairdresser ripped my ear drum apart for a fourteen-inning game. Sometime in life you just gotta pick your battles.
The championship series went on for seven games, like all the others. Two games in Tijuana. Three games in San Luis. Then the last two in Tijuana. Baseball Jesus hated me, that was for sure, right along with all the Tijuana fans too. During the last game in Tijuana, things got really heated between the teams and between me and the 25,000 fans. The teams were constantly clearing the benches and the fans were constantly talking trash all around me. Some people joked about it with me, and some just hated the only white girl from America in the stadium. I sat there quietly, but not without rolling my eyes or staring at them to let them know I could decipher what they were saying, and waited for the outcome of the game. At one point in the eighth inning, Tijuana tied the game and the fans all around me started spraying their beers everywhere, including on me. The guy slugging the beer next to me was a real doucher and liked to progressively scream louder into my ear every time Tijuana scored or took the lead. He was also very fond of the team cheerleaders (yeah, baseball cheerleaders) who danced on top of the dug outs in a few pieces of thread and a bra. No seriously, I could have made their outfits in 7th grade home economics and this guy would rush up to them for photo opps like they were Eva Mendes. This picture of me in game seven really wraps it up nicely for you to see what I look like when I’m contemplating the decisions I’ve made in life.
By the ninth inning, we had taken the lead by one run. We were three outs away from winning the whole thing, so I whipped out my iPad to capture the potential celebration. When the last ball was caught, and we claimed the championship, I turned and screamed right into all the silent fans faces. I even had my iPad out to record their reaction. I captured the guys celebrating on the field and taped Anthony running around with his goggles he bought for the very occasion, like there’d be sprayed champagne or something. After the game the whole team and the owners stopped at a little taco shop where I taped them dancing around inside and singing some Mexican chant that Anthony pretending to sing along with. I taped the 3:30AM arrival back in San Luis where cops escorted the team back to their home field where the locals loyally waited for them to celebrate together. I took pictures of Anthony with his team mates and fans. The whole thing was one of the most insane experiences I’d ever been through and it would have been so cool to share all of that here with you if Anthony hadn’t hit factory reset on my iPad and erased all evidence of it ever happening.Yeah, I was pissed too. At least one picture from outside the taco stand survived, and it happened to be one of the good ones.
We got back to our house around 5:30AM just as the sun was just rising. We chit-chatted before bed about how crazy the season had been and I even admitted that I was proud to witness his first professional baseball championship. His final season ended on such a high and it made me happy that baseball would remain such a great experience for him. It was of course easy to let go of my pride, knowing that baseball was finally over and normal life awaited us. Hell, I thought, I might even get a date in the near future. It might have to be in Yuma, but I was willing to start somewhere. And despite having to be up for work in less than sixty minutes, I dozed off peacefully for that short time. Things were about to get better, I could just tell….and then I woke back up.