Lisa Guerrero: My husband is that gringo on the mound
MEXICALI, Mexico -- There are many kinds of torture. Bamboo under the fingernails, waterboarding, an evening with the in-laws, a halftime with the Jonas Brothers. Pick your poison.
An excruciating experience to me is watching a baseball game from the stands, in say, Mexicali, while my husband, a 40-year-old pitcher attempting to make a comeback after a two-year hiatus, is on the mound doing his darndest to last five innings and locate the strike zone. And mariachi music is blaring in between every single pitch. Relentlessly.
It's 51 degrees when the game begins and 43 by the end of the third inning. This, however, does not deter the "Tecate Girls." They trot out to the top of the dugouts in bikinis and heels, not to cheer or toss T-shirts to the crowd of 6,000, but to bump, grind and giggle, which suits the fans here just fine, thank you. I am worried for their safety from a) the drunken fans, b) falling off the dugouts while tottering in stilettos, or c) catching a nasty chest cold because not much material to speak of is covering that region.
Despite the chill, I am sweating up a storm. (I know. Very unladylike.) Every pitch he throws seems to be going in slow-motion, although surprisingly, he's registering up to 90 mph on the radar gun. Pretty good after riding the couch for 2 1/2 years. Scott Erickson's jersey number here is 53. Somebody else has his traditional 19. Here is a photo from when Scott was with the Dodgers.
Although I'm starving and the carne asada tacos at the stands and "papas" (or potato chips) smell delicious, I couldn't swallow a pea. My stomach is in knots, and I can barely sip water to relieve my dry throat. His slider looks OK, but he seems to be "aiming" instead of just releasing the ball. Watching helplessly from the stands is gut-wrenching.
He walks a few guys in this, his second game. The Spanish-speaking crowd mumbles what could be some nasty comments, but thankfully I don't understand what they're saying -- my Spanish isn't what it should be.
There are some Americans in the stands-- a group of six 30-somethings from Yuma, Ariz., is sitting behind me. One of them recognizes me and offers to buy me a drink. I politely decline, but chat with them for a few minutes between innings.
"What brings you guys to Mexicali?" I ask.
"Bachelor party," they say.
Stupidly, I respond, "I didn't know Mexicali's baseball games were big with bachelor parties."
"Mexicali's full-contact strip clubs are," they inform me.
Is it possible for me to feel any more uncomfortable? Yes -- I have to go to the bathroom, but
I can't leave my seat yet. Not until Scott leaves the game. This is one of my many superstitions during game days. Yes, wives have them too.
A vendor comes by and is pouring a Clamato concoction that seems to be very popular. Later, Carly Gil (Benjie's wife) informs me that this is michelada -- Clamato juice, beer, chili powder, lime, etc. (At a later game when Scott's not playing, I tried one. Delicious!)
The Mexican beisbol fans are vocal and passionate. Many are wearing Aguilas de Mexicali hats or jackets; some are sporting American teams' merchandise: lots of Dodgers, Chargers and, of course, Angels gear. There's lots of national pride for Arte Moreno.
The players themselves are plastered with sponsors' logos. Their names aren't on the jerseys -- just their numbers. In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd think Pacifico was playing Tecate rather than Mexicali versus Mazatlan.
Aside from the Tecate Girls display, the atmosphere is very family-friendly. Lots of kids and young couples. The stadium, El Nido (The Nest -- the Aguilas are Eagles), is safe, and there's plenty of security.
I would have felt a lot more secure had I not just read the latest in the fascinating/awful L.A. Times series about drugs, kidnappings and violence in Mexico. On Sunday, Scott and I were in the airport in Mexicali getting ready to board our flight for the next series in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, when I read about all of the murders and bloody shootouts in ... Sinaloa. And to think, before last week I was only worried about Montezuma's revenge.
Nevertheless, Sinaloa is pleasant enough, and, as it turns out, the last regular series of the season for the Aguilas. They have made the playoffs and will begin a best-of-seven series on New Year's Day against Los Mochis.
As it turned out, Scott threw 95 pitches in that second game. Very encouraging. His next goals are to continue to regain control, test his new pitch -- a change-up -- and throw into the seventh inning.
My next goal is to try to enjoy it.
-- Lisa Guerrero
Lisa Guerrero has covered Super Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series, along with the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. As an actress, she has appeared on "Frasier" and "The George Lopez Show" and as Billy Baldwin's long-suffering wife in the film "A Plumm Summer," which she executive-produced.
Pop-up photo: Scott Erickson when he was with the Dodgers during spring training of 2005. Credit: Scott Audette / Associated Press