Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pan American Baseball

The big excitement here is still the opening of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara last week.  As I mentioned in the last post, the games are very popular, particularly in Latin America.  The US and Canada are attending and doing well in the medal count, but the games are not popular in the US, unlike the Olympic Games.  Nevertheless, it is a huge job to accommodate the games, and it appears as though Guadalajara has been doing a wonderful job and getting some excellent press for Mexico, for a change.  

Our friend Lew Crippen wanted to drive up to attend some of the baseball competition and asked Pixie and I if we'd like to go along.  The baseball stadium, build especially for the games, is in Lagos de Moreno, a couple of hours northeast of Guadalajara.  We drove up last Friday and had great seats for the game between Cuba and Puerto Rico.  There was a large contingent of Cubans at the game who were very excited to be there (Cuba was the gold medal winner at the last Pan Am gmes in 2007).  Below are a goup of Cubans we met outside the stadium before the game. 
We were anxious to see the Cuban team, who were undefeated in the tournament.  Puerto Rico had lost both games they had played, so we expected a Cuban rout.  Surprisingly, Cuba struggled with a persistent Puerto Rico team.  There were some sloppy plays on both sides, a lot of base runners, and the game was tied 5-5 after 9 innings.  Interestingly, when the Puerto Rican team came to bat in the top of the 10th, there were men on first and second base!  I was confused until we figured that it was an international rule designed to get a quicker decision than a traditional extra-inning game.    Puerto Rico, not surprisingly, scored two runs in the tenth.  Cuba came up to bat, similarly, with two free base runners, and loaded the bases.  There were to outs and two strikes on the batter; they were within one strike of being upset by the upstart Puerto Ricans!  But they hung in there with a few hits and scored three runs, the final play on a disputed missed catch by the Puerto Rican outfielder, but the game was over, and Cuba had won 8-7.  Here are some photos of the game.  In the last one, notice Pixie with Trudy and Lew enjoying the game with the enthusiastic Cuban crowd.  

 There wasn't much food available at the stadium, just sandwiches, chips and beer.  We had been able to pick up tickets for bleacher seats at the next game, which featured Mexico against the Dominican Republic.  We had to clear the stadium after the first game, so we went down the road to have a meal at a local restaurant.  We made it back to the stadium for the third inning of the Mexican game.  Of course, this game was standing room-only.  We managed to find a few spare seats but we couldn't sit together.  We could see the game from a ways away, so I didn't get any good photos, but we did have a great time sitting in the cheap seats with a bunch of enthusiastic Mexicans.  They were drinking beer and yucking it up with each other and with the umpires.  I learned a few spicy Spanish expressions!  The Mexicans were clearly curious about us.  When they asked where we lived, they were surprised to learn we lived in Mexico.  So we enjoyed the game from that vantage point.  Mexico won the hard-fought game 3-2, setting up the final qualifying game with the US last night.  

Since the US had clobbered everyone thus far, I was expecting the US to win the game.  We had gone home Friday night, but Lew brought another group up to last night's US-Mexico game.  I was surprised this morning to discover that Mexico beat the US team 3-2.  So tomorrow, the US will play Cuba and Mexico will play Canada, with the winners playing for the gold medal on Tuesday.  It would be great for Mexico to win the gold on their home turf.  We'll see.  At any rate, it has been fun to see some baseball down here!

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