Thursday, October 15, 2015

Payday in the Mexican Baseball League.

For many people, today is payday. 

I suppose no matter how old you get, or how much money you wind up making, there’s something nice about payday. We’ve lost something, I think, when paydays went electronic.  It was much nicer when someone would come around with an envelope that had your check or your paystub in it. 

I know that’s getting all Thornton Wilder, “Our Town” on you, but if I ever decided to hang up my own shingle and if I ever have a staff, I think I’d pay them all with an actual physical paycheck and an actual physical handshake.

That’s the way things went when I played ball for the Saraperos de Saltillo down in the Mexican Baseball League going on 41 years ago. I remember one afternoon in late June sitting in the locker room with a few of the other boys.

Hector Quesadillo came out with a shoebox filled with envelopes. He’d walk over to say, Issy Buentello, hand him his dough and shake his ham.

“Bueno?” Quesadillo would ask.


He went around to all the other guys. Diablo, Garibay, Sanchez, Suena, Adame. Even some of the clubhouse boys.

Hector finally made his way over to me. 

I was the newest kid on the team and the youngest at just 17.  I wouldn't be 18 for six more months. The only job I had ever had before playing ball for the Saraperos was a game room attendant at an amusement park near my parents’ apartment. I made sure no ruffians from the Bronx burned the place down and I cleared coin slots that got jammed. That paid $2.30/hr., minimum wage at the time.

Hector searched through the few remaining envelopes for mine, found it, then handed it over.

“Bien haceis, mi hijo.” You are doing well my son.

“Gracias, me gusta aqui.” Thank you, I like it here.

I opened the envelope. There were two clipped packages of bills inside. One with 2160 pesos, my meal money for the month, $12 a day while on the road for 15 days. The second sheaf was my monthly pay, 2400 pesos—about $200.

“Gracias,” I said again to Hector, shaking his hand. "Me gusta aqui."

He reached into his the side pocket of his turquoise Saraperos windbreaker. He took out two 50 peso notes, folded them in half and handed them to me. 

“Poco mas, mi hijo. Un bono.”  A little more, my son. A bonus.

I had hit two doubles the night before. For that, Hector had awarded me an extra eight dollars.

He shook my hand again.

I’ve had thousands of paydays since then. All of them bigger. And dozens of bonuses, naturally more than eight dollars.

But I’ve never had a payday that meant more than that first one.

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