The ride from
Nuevo Laredo to Reynosa is only five hours, a jaunt compared with the
Juárez-to-Nuevo Laredo odyssey. Things go smoothly this time. No breakdowns. No
immigration to deal with, no Aduana.
There is talk
among the players that Reynosa is also one of the worst towns in the
league—lunatic fans, no decent restaurants, bad bars and a hotel that rates at
the top of the oh-my-God list. Back in Juárez, Kekich, a former New York
Yankee, now living in El Paso and going to medical school in Juárez, said it
was partly because of places like Reynosa and Coatzacoalcos that he had fled
the Mexican League after the 1981 season.
The desk clerk in
Reynosa hands out the first room keys. Players go upstairs and then come back
with ashen looks. "No way I'm staying in that room," says Pitcher René
Quiñonez. "You know what a room smells like when there's a rat in it? I'll
sleep on the bus before I'll stay there." He's pointing his thumb to the
ceiling and holding his nose.
trickle down the stairs with the same complaints. They slap their room keys on
the counter and glare at the clerk, who takes a few steps back in case things
get ugly. Rightfielder Greg Biagini appears with a streak of white paint on his
shoulder. He says that the wall outside his room has just been painted, but
there is no WET PAINT sign. He opened the door to his room just wide enough to
smell something awesome and quickly closed it again. He is talking about
throwing one of the stink bombs that he bought at Joey's Novelties in Laredo,
Texas, into the room to soften it up before moving in.
The small lobby is
packed with suitcases and impatient ballplayers. The hotel is being renovated
and there are loud banging noises, and now and then construction workers
wearing straw hats wander by. The road manager is hovering over the desk clerk,
yelling. The clerk is juggling room keys trying to find everyone a room that
Check-in drags on
for two hours. The smell is tentatively identified as a combination of high
humidity and wet paint. The rat report is unconfirmed. It is evident that some
rooms have been sealed for a long time and that humidity has warped the floors,
making it nearly impossible to open the doors. There is something ironic about
struggling to get inside a room that smells as though its last inhabitant was a
I've given up
dreaming about the big leagues. I hit .348 last year and I didn't even get a
phone call. There are guys in the majors who hit .220 year after year and they
are still there. I'm a mercenary now. I'm in this for the money.
It is getting
close to 6 p.m. The players are in uniform and the bus is waiting. The park is
only a few miles away, but the ride is long because the bus has to wind through
narrow back streets. The neighborhood is crumbling. The houses are shacks. The
noise of the bus draws a lot of attention. Kids run alongside it, grinning and
shouting. People step from storefronts and wave. Men hoist their beers in a
kind of salute. A player lets a stink bomb go on the bus. It smells almost as
bad as the hotel rooms, and the players hang their heads out the windows and
groan and make funny gasping noises. People on the street turn and stare. Some
think the players are greeting them, and they smile and wave wildly.
of a vast array of weaponry from Joey's Novelties, takes this as some kind of
signal and begins pelting the citizenry of Reynosa with small firecrackers that
explode on contact with the sidewalk. Moments before, he had given the bat boy
a piece of joke-shop gum that turns teeth blue. Now everyone is waiting for the
bat boy to smile.
Zandokan," Biagini shouts to the bat boy. "Heard any jokes