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
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?"
thought I would like to be a policeman or a probation officer, something like
that," he says.
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:
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.' "