I woke up early, before either Karmen or even Teresa, a notoriously early-riser, were up. I made a large pot of very strong coffee and ate a big bowl of corn flakes, virtually the same breakfast I gobbled 41 years ago when I roomed with Hector and Teresa and, of course, Karmen.
The ballpark--Estadio Francesco I. Madura--was just a mile and a half from Teresa's house. I threw on my old, green Seraperos windbreaker, grabbed my duffle bag and walked to the old stadium. There would likely be no one else there for hours. But that was ok by me. I was always a 'get to the park early' type. That's carried over to today where I still, usually, get to work before anyone else. It's just how I do things, how I get ready for the day ahead.
The door to the clubhouse was guarded by an old dark man who of course had no idea who I was. He wasn't used to seeing old gringos at his beaten door. But the club had put me and the other Veteranos on a list and he waved me in.
Alone in the dank and dripping locker-room, a room little changed since last year's game, even little changed from the summer of 1975 when I played for the Seraperos, I changed into my warm-up gear and went out onto the field, just to get a sense of where, once again, I was.
There is a beauty to an empty ballpark, because even in the still of a pre-seven a.m. morning, it is never really empty. I could hear the chirp of the million birds that swarm around the place, picking and pecking at the empty stands, collecting peanut shells and pretzel bits for their homes and bellies. There is the mechanical click-splash of automatic sprinklers as they keep the green grass green despite the heat of the Mexican-summer-sun. There is the ca-chunk of down seats being pushed up by the battery of sweepers hoping against hope to clean the place before the next game begins. I took it all in, as I had done so many times before, and I liked it.
The ceremonies of the day were four hours away, the game itself maybe five hours off. It would be another hour or two before my team-mates arrived. An hour or two before things started happening. But that was ok.
It's always good to be where you belong.