I told Adrian that we would have to leave around 3:30 from Hacienda Heights in order to make it to Anaheim in time for the 4:30 start time of the Mexico vs. US game in round 2 of the World Baseball Classic.
Adrian and I have been to many games together. He’s my brother. He knows I’m not on time.
“Ay, si tú. Showing up on time? What kind of Mexican are you?” he wrote over instant messenger.
I responded, “We need to show up on time. Who is going to stand up when they play the Mexican national anthem? You know all the Mexicans are going to be late.”
My plan didn’t work so well. We were late. Gabby, Adrian, Steve (Adrian’s friend) and I arrived at Angel Stadium around 5 p.m. I think it was one of those things you see because that’s what you expect to see, but I only noticed raza walking toward the parking lot inside the gates of Angel Stadium.
We made our way to the will call window. On the way there we saw dozens of people crowding around to get into the gates. The Mexican fans wore the green caps with a red M, Mexican baseball jerseys, ponchos, huge straw hats, and tied Mexican flags around their necks so it would flow like a cape. Some people had their faces painted in red, white and green.
On the way to our seats, we passed a couple of concession stands. The TV screens showed a replay of what looked like a go-ahead home run off the right field pole. Rather than call it a homerun, the umpires said it was a ground rule double. By the time we got to our seats, Jorge Cantú had hit in Mario Valenzuela for the first of Mexico’s two runs.
In the next inning, the US anwered back with a run of its own when Vernon Wells hit a sacrifice fly and allowed Chipper Jones to score.
Mexico didn’t let the empate (tie) last too long and in the bottom of the fifth inning, they scored once again. Cantú hit another RBI and brought in Valenzuela a second time. The US took out Roger “the Rocket” Clemens soon after. Gabby and I yelled out “didn’t you retire?” as most other fans gave him a standing ovation. It might be Clemens’ last start. I don’t care, I’ve never been a fan.
The next three innings went by kind of quickly. Mexico’s pitchers made it look easy and would get out the US batters out one-two-three.
Meanwhile, fans chanted. Me-xi-co! U-S-A! Culeeeeroooooos! Gabby and I even counted how many times the culeros chant would come up.
By the top of the ninth, Team USA fans were hoping for something to keep their hopes in the tournament alive, and it got close.
With a the pro-Mexico portion of the crowd trying in vain to drown out chants of “USA,” lefty Jorge De La Rosa took over for the ninth and struck out Ken Griffey Jr. before walking Jones and being replaced by righty Luis Ayala, who walked Alex Rodriguez to move the tying run into scoring position. [Johnny Damon pinch ran for Alex Rodriguez after he was walked.]
That brought righty David Cortes out of the bullpen to face Wells, who grounded into a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch he saw, setting off a wild celebration that featured Team Mexico saying good-bye to its fans with a flag-waving victory lap.
Gabby and I chanted “double play!” and we got it.
It was cool to see Mexico win, even if they only had a tiny chance of advancing in the tournament. The US pretty much needed to win in order to advance over Japan. South Korea was a definite because they won three games.
Mexico eliminated the US from contention in the WBC. I think it’s pretty cool that Mexico eliminated the team from the country that invented the sport. Maybe baseball is no longer “America’s pastime.” Perhaps, it has become “the Americas’ (plus Asia) pastime.” The LA Times writes, “in six games, the U.S. of Jeter, Junior and A-Rod, of Clemens, Damon and Chipper, lost to Canada, Korea and Mexico.”