Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A home run in the Mexican League.

In my second at bat in my third game as a Sarapero de Saltillo in the Mexican Baseball League, I got ahold of a slider that wandered over the center of the plate and sent it about 400 feet down the left field line--I was a dead pull hitter--until the ball, as if with a mind of its own--hooked around the foul pole and landed in the bleachers foul.

The crowd had gotten up over that and some of them, like me, were trying to will the ball straight with their body english. The pitcher did what pitchers do, he chastised himself for serving one down the pipe, rubbed up the horsehide and let go another leather-covered sphere.

This one too was a slider and this one too strayed over the fat of the plate and this one too I slugged deep over the left field wall, fair this time, for a home-run, my first in professional baseball. There's a marvelous feeling, the feeling of Herculean strength and power when your bat hits the ball exactly right. The vibration of the collision runs up your forearms and magnifies into your biceps and shoulders. Your bones know, you've done something just right.

I trotted around the bases, and in short order, my new teammates, I mostly didn't even know their names, variously slapped my ass, shoulder or hand or gave me an old-fashioned handshake. Even Hector Quesadilla, my manager, usually so stolid in the dugout gave me a big hug and put his giant arm around me.

"Senoras and Senores, esto es Jorge Navidad."

I took a dramatic vaudeville bow with that and, by way of introducing myself, shook a few more hands. Even an outsider will be welcomed into a group--no matter how tight knit it may seem--if he can hit the long ball. Though my manner is often icy and diffident, though I've never willingly joined anything in my life, I was being welcomed. A strange feeling for me. A perennial outsider.

We won that game, I can't even remember who we were playing, but I think the score was something like 16-4. I remember it was a rout--a rare rout in that be-dimmed season, and because it was a rout, some of the boys started clowning about.

It started simply enough, with a few of the guys making basket catches in the outfield like Willie Mays in his prime. Fredo Fresno, a little used pinch hitter batted late in the game and bunted himself on with a squib, then he promptly stole second and third. Finally, Brutus Cesar in center caught the final out, a short pop-up, in his cap, earning himself a 500-peso fine that Hector later relented on.

That night about a dozen of us went out to Tino's, a small bar not far from the stadium. Back in the States, though it never stopped me since I had my brother's draft card as fake ID, I wasn't even old enough to drink. But that night, I drank. My teammates treating me.

I had hit a home run.

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