Friday, April 17, 2015

Juego de viejos.

I haven’t watched a baseball game as yet this year. While hope may spring eternal in the human breast, my personal aquifer of optimism is more than a trifle arid. The game itself is sullied for me. Sullied by the robo-muscles of chemical origins that rendered the records of my youth meaningless. Sullied by the fact that the most important component on any team is not a wily lefty who nips the black with a fading fastball, but an accountant who knows how to make the salary cap fit snug over the luxury cap. Sullied because the tax-payer money from poor-folks has built the stadiums only the mega-rich can afford. I see nothing romantic in going to a ballgame and spending $27 for a frankfurter and a cup of suds.

Maybe I am too much like Bierce’s definition of a cynic in that I know the price of everything and the value of nothing. But nevertheless, the season, thus far has not excited my proclivities.

That said, just last night I got a phone call from Saltillo, Mexico that may help me turn the corner. On the other end of the blower was one Juan Jose Pacho, the manager of the Saraperos de Saltillo, the team in the Mexican league for whom I toiled one dusty season some forty rotations ago.

I didn’t know Pacho from when I played—he was only 15 when I returned to college in New York, but I’ve met him a few times through the years and have an amiable, if casual, relationship with him.

Pacho was a damn good ballplayer in his day, compiling a .278 lifetime batting average (in the pitcher-friendly Mexican League) and amassing almost 1,800 hits while playing 19 years for the Yucatan Lions and the Mexico City Red Devils. Like Hector Quesadilla before him, he is proud of his bronze likeness in the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Jorge Navidad,” he said as I picked up the phone.

“We are having an old-timers game, a juego de viejos in Saltillo, juego de veteranos, on el sabado, trigesimo de mayo.”

I translated to myself. Coincidentally, my wife and I were planning on going to Cape Cod that weekend. We almost always head north for Memorial Day.

“I haven’t played ball in 40 years,” I temporized.

Pacho tutted in Spanish.

“In an old-timers game, not much ball is played,” he reminded me.

I thought of my still-unrepaired rotator cuff. I might be accepting a new job soon, yet still haven’t had it repaired. I thought about the extra adipose that’s holding a convention around my mid-section.

Could I even make a throw from third to first, a distance of almost 130 feet? Could I even race down the 90 feet from home to first? That is, if I could even scuff a ball with a bat.

I thought about all those things.

Then I quickly said, “si, sin duda.” Without a doubt.

Pacho promised to send an email with travel arrangements and hotel rooms. He said he was looking forward to seeing me at the comida de viejos…the dinner of old men the Friday before the game. I admitted I was looking forward to seeing him, too and hung up the horn.

Somehow I will explain all this to my ever-loving. And for some reason, after rolling her eyes up to the heavens, she will understand.

Play ball.

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