Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hector Quesadilla.

Undated photograph of Hector Quesadilla when he played for the Sultanes de Monterrey.
It's Christmas Eve day and I am flying about four flights to get to Corpus Christi, Texas. From there, I will rent a car and drive almost six hours south west, through Laredo, skirting Monterrey and onto Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila and a city of almost, now, a million.

I spent a year in Saltillo, when I played--forty years ago--my one season in the Mexican Baseball League. Though I didn't exactly tear up the Mexican League, I did alright, I grew up a bit, and now, looking back through those decades, I realized I made some friends for life.

Foremost among those friends is Hector Quesadilla, my nearly round manager when I played for the Seraperos and the man who gave me my Mexican League moniker, Jorge Navidad.

Hector "Little Cheese" had been a bonafide star in the Mexican League when he played in the 40s and 50s. His best season was 1942 when he batted a neat .366, leading the league, with 41 homers and 155 rbis. Save for the darkness of his skin, he surely would have cracked the big leagues. As it stood he was up only for a cup of coffee in 1952, playing for the Boston Braves, and he didn't stick.

Hector's wife called me over the weekend to tell me that "this might be the time," that Hector, burdened with age, adipose and emphysema had probably filled out his last lineup card.

I remember the first lineup card the old man filled out with my name--or my Mexican League name--on it. I had arrived just six or seven hours before game time and Hector, seeing my swing and my power hired me on the spot. Of course, there was little risk in that. My salary was just about $200/month plus two chicken dinners a week at a small diner near the stadium.

Over the course of the 70 or so games I played for the Seraperos, over those weeks and months, Hector and I grew close. I was a 17 year old far away from home--with more than my share of "father issues," and Hector was a stalwart, helping me out when I was in need.

When I slapped two doubles in my first game, Quesadilla dropped his big arm around my shoulder. "Mi hijo Americano" he called me. "My American son."

So now, I am on my way. To see him. Probably for the last time.

I haven't seen him since that dusty 1975 summer, when he and Teresa, his wife, had me over for so many meals, so many cervezas on the front porch of their ramshackle casa, overlooking their rock-strewn yard.

On my way to Corpus Christi.

Then Avis through Mexico.

Then to see the big guy.

Merry Christmas, Hector.

I'll see you soon.

No comments: