Friday, November 6, 2015

Old meets young in the Mexican League.

Toward the end of my lone season playing for the Saraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican Baseball League, an old man joined the club, meeting us as we played a set in Torreon. He would be an extra arm from the bullpen and an extra pitching coach for Hector Quesadilla, whose staff was struggling.

As luck would have it, Guillermo Sisto, was given the locker next to mine. In short order, the youngest player on the team, me, became friends with the oldest.

“Buenos tardes,” I said by way of introduction.

We shook hands. As men did 40 years ago.

“He jugado durante 50 clubes de b√©isbol,” he answered. “I have played for 50 baseball clubs.”

I laughed.

“Many seasons, I played for six or seven clubs. And I have never made the big leagues,” the old man said. “I played with Hector Quesadilla, the great Hector Quesadilla, when he was a young man and was coveted in the Major Leagues.”

He unloaded his stuff from his sky blue team duffle bag into his locker. His spikes looked like a boxer who had lasted too many rounds in the ring, against a Frazier, or a Louis, or a Marciano.

“I played and played and played. For club after club. In cities that have now been reduced to towns. And in towns that have grown into cities. I have been playing in the league since 1948.”

That was a full ten years before I was born. I looked at his glove as he unpacked it. It was one of the old models, like the glove my father had used when we had catches when I was a boy.

We dressed alongside each other, getting ready for some warm-ups before that evening’s game.

“Here’s the thing ,” he said, studying me.

“Baseball I have been playing for 28 seasons. 28 seasons for 50 different clubs. From cities you have never heard of. From cities,” he rubbed my cheek with his hand, “from cities that haven’t seen a white face since the Conquistadores left. Old cities, sad cities, broken cities, small cities that are no more than a small collection of shacks.

“I have played everywhere. Always trying to do what was asked of me. When a team needed a second-baseman, I played second. An arm from the bullpen, I would be in the bullpen. Pinch running, pinch hitting. Playing outfield. Or just riding the pine just in case.”

“50 teams,” I said dumbly. “I didn’t know there were 50 teams.”

“There are a million teams,” he answered, lacing his spikes. “Maybe for all of them I will play someday.”

I laughed at that.

“He is the truth, I will tell you, Jorge Navidad.”

We stood up to walk through the semi-gloss tunnel from the locker-room to the field.

“I was never much of a ballplayer,” he said.

He hit the field and limbered up with a light catch. He threw with a sweet motion and a pop on his tosses. Maybe he was showing off.

“I was never much good,” Guillermo went on. “But the game I love. So, I play, always hoping for one more game.”

He zipped one in.

"Maybe this is my time," he said, smiling. And then he jogged off--tilting slightly to the left--into the coming twilight.



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