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AFTERWORD From the Cheap Seats: iBeisbol! BY JOHN DUGAN AND BILL ADLER Monterrey, Mexico It was on the Ejecutivo bus, only a half-hour or so south of Nuevo Laredq that the promise of a sweet weekend nearly curdled We were in repose: splayed like drunks in the fully reclining seatig and thor oughly benumbed by the fork-bendingly loud salsa videos blaring from the small Sony screens mounted from the ceiling every few rows of the coach. Just as the screens went blank, the bus pulled over at a road-side checkpoint. A uniformed customs officer climbed aboard, asking for our entrance permits. We had none: somewhere between arro gance and innocence we’d ne glected to obtain visas. We could proffer only our passports. “Go see my boss,” we were instructed, and were bumrushed off the bus. Inside the boss’ office, a small, spartan, tinted-window facility furnished only with a bureaucrat’s forms, desk, manual typewriter and television, the boss greeted us with stern visage and unadulterated boredom. We’d left Austin at dawn in the Rent-a-Sled, pointed down the NAFTA highway. It was the morning of the first of three games in Monterrey of “La Primera Serie” the first regular season major league baseball ever played in Mexico. And it was even more: the triumphant homecoming for Fernando Valenzuela, the 35year-old left-handed folk-hero and Sonora native who would be tonight’s starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres against the New York Mets. Baseball-crazed Monterrey has the Republican National Committee to thank for the historic series. The GOP commandeered most of San Diego’s public facilities for its Dolefest, thus providing the club with an opportunity to stretch its marketing tentacles farther across the border. \(The team last year established a souvenir store in Tijuana, and has been co-sponsoring, with Tecate beer, charter buses from MexBut the possibilities for future Padres revenue are not presently on our minds. We’re hoping only to salvage the weekend lark along with our bags, which remained in the cargo hold of the Del Norte bus, waiting for us, for now, about fifty yards up the road. Customs boss: “What are you here for?” “We’re here for the baseball game.” Sr. Customs Man smiled knowingly, warmly. He told us about meeting “Nando” Valenzuela once, and about his son’s little league prowess, and about how he’d be heading to Monterrey too if he wasn’t stuck here dealing with blissfully ignorant nortetios. The bus, meanwhile, was revving. He tells his subordinate to tell the driver to hold the bus. He fills out the requisite forms, we sign in duplicate, shake hands. “Have a good time,” he says in English. “Be careful.” t the ballpark a couple of hours before Fernando tosses his first strike, we make our pitch at the press will-call booth. Somehow, the Observer’s credentials have been misplaced. We’re told the press box is full for tonight; try again tomorrow. We scan the scores of media institutions on the approved list: The New York Times, USA Today, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the hometown El Norte, Siglo XXI of Guatemala City, you name it. Before long, though, a Padres PR guy notices the hangdogs and throws us a bone: a couple of seats in the auxiliary press box, between home and first in the upper deck. The big boys are here, as are we, to Olga M. Garza-Cardona 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 13, 1996