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It's almost time to leave El Paso and return to Cruz Blanca Stadium to begin another road trip. These are hard hours, the ones after a night game and before the bus rolls again at around 1:30 or 2 a.m. It is dark and cool and quiet and you know it doesn't make sense, but you're sure the only people stirring at that foul hour are tired ballplayers, maybe a little drunk, just trying to make a living.
Garcia's car pulls away from the border checkpoint in Juárez and heads through the deserted residential streets of the city. Everything is still. We park across the street from the stadium and sit, cradling cold beers between our legs, watching the other players drive up.
There is music on the car radio, a mournful, wailing song in Spanish. "These Mexican songs...there's something about them," Garcia says. "They are so emotional. They get to me. Sometimes I don't understand American songs."
I ask him how long he plans to stay in baseball.
"I don't know. A few more years maybe. But I've said that before."
He is 33 and has no illusions about the likelihood of a big league club gambling on an old pitcher from the boonies. He says if it's going to happen it has to be this year. "The chance will disappear after this year." He wants that start. You can hear it in his voice.
"Any idea what you'll do after baseball?"
"I've always thought I would like to be a policeman or a probation officer, something like that," he says.
Players are gathering around the bus now. Their gear is lined up on the sidewalk. From a distance you can see two shadowy figures, a player and his girl, saying goodby under a streetlight, embracing, and then Garcia says:
"I'm thankful for what I have. When I was growing up we didn't have very much. We had to get our shoes from Goodwill, and even then we had to steal them. I want my kids to have it better. That's why I do it, so my kids will look back when they are grown and say, 'Dad, we was all right.' "