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Baseball in Mexicali, a lively evening of winter league action

Last night we saw our first ever Mexican Pacific League baseball game, a matchup between the Obregon Yaquis and the Mexicali Águilas, at Estadio B-Air in Mexicali. The Mexican Pacific League is a “winter” league. The season starts in mid-October and runs through the end of December, making for rather pleasant baseball-watching weather in Mexico.

The Mexican Pacific League is an independent league, unaffiliated with Major League Baseball, so the ranking system of Triple-A, Double-A, and so on doesn’t apply. A blogger who clearly knows baseball much better than I estimated the league to be somewhere between Triple-A and Double-A based on talent. Based on more quantifiable measures of stadium size and attendance, I’d say it fits squarely in Triple-A.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the game start time of 6 pm, and to be honest the attendance was quite sparse at the outset. Perhaps it was because of the early start time, or perhaps the Mexicali crowd just isn’t interested in seeing an entire three-hour game, but the crowds started strolling in later. Some folks were still arriving as late as the eighth inning.

There were no metal detectors at Estadio B-Air, but a security guard did look through Kathryn’s purse. Since I looked like a shifty, possibly armed American, I received an unconvincing pat-down from a male security guard. We had bought our tickets online, but oddly there were no barcode readers at the gate. They simply tore a corner of the ticket so I couldn’t reuse it. I wonder which corner of my phone they would have torn if I had chosen the electronic ticket option.

A few minutes after we arrived, the Mexican national anthem played. Kathryn and I don’t know a single word or note, but we stood attentively. As such, we’re now disqualified from working for an NFL team.

As far as the game went, baseball is baseball to me. The Mexican Pacific League appears to use a designated hitter, which offends some baseball purists but doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

On the other hand, the ambiance in the stands in Mexicali was unlike any other baseball game I’d been to. We never had to leave our seats for food or drinks. I couldn’t figure out what half the stuff passing by us was, but the couple sitting next to us ordered what appeared to be chicken wings and later some sort of fried potatoes, both of which were drenched in hot sauce and smelled quite good. There was also pizza, potato chips, and churros, among other snack items available in the stands.

To drink, there was soda, flavored waters, cocktails, and of course beer. I caught the attention of a beer vendor about halfway through the game and got a doble, which is two twelve-ounce Tecate Lights in one 24-ounce cup. It cost $12 like at a Diamondbacks game, right? Nope, it cost 50 pesos, or about $2.70. Also noteworthy, they kept selling beer right into the ninth inning.

Also, I don’t think I’d ever seen a baseball team with cheerleaders. They weren’t particularly good, but they kept things interesting during the breaks in play. And the stadium music was almost non-stop. They would pause briefly as the pitcher wound up and resume when the play was over. It was a lively way to spend a fall evening.

As luck would have it, Mexicali won 7-1. The Águilas didn’t look strong at the beginning, but in the fourth inning they took advantage of an error at first base and changed the momentum, scoring four runs in that inning alone. The opponent didn’t score a run the rest of the game.