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This is Biagini's fifth season in Mexico. He's 30. He has played in the Montreal and Seattle farm organizations, but not an inning in the big leagues. Things haven't been going well for Biagini. To begin with, someone in the dugout stole coffee from his thermos while he was on the field during the last home stand, and he wasn't pleased. He's going to load the coffee down with Ex-Lax to give the thief a little rush the next time.
At bat, he has been grinding himself into the dust, flailing away at slow breaking stuff. Tough to take for a guy who hit .348 last year and led the league in doubles, total bases and slugging percentage. For the first 10 days of this season, he was holed up in his North Carolina home sweating out a salary dispute. He finally agreed to a six-month contract, but when he arrived in Juárez and went to the front office to pick up his first check, he was told there wasn't enough money on hand yet. Biagini, the big-name star, was paid in cash from gate receipts.
On this bus ride, Biagini is out to promote mayhem. "What's so funny, Zandokan?" Biagini shouts. The bat boy still won't smile. He suspects something.
Biagini is very personable, charming really. Cowboy boots with his uniform number, 24, on them are his trademark. Even his fits of anger—in which he uses his bat to beat up inanimate objects like benches and water coolers—have a soft edge to them.
Baseball for Biagini is just a way to make money to put his wife through college, where she is studying sports medicine, and his daughter through private school. He is unique among American ballplayers in Mexico who haven't already played in the big leagues; he openly acknowledges that his career stops here, that for him there will be no major league contract.
Maybe that explains the firecrackers. Maybe that explains why somewhere in Mexico there is a bat boy with blue teeth.
But at the front of the bus, the Indios' third baseman, Terry Lee, is very worried. The team will make a trip to southern Mexico shortly to play in storied towns like Coatzacoalcos and Campeche. The stories are all bad food and bad water and four days in bed with amoebas rampaging through your biosystem.
"Man, I hear you can get it anywhere," Lee says. "You can just touch somebody and you'll get it. That blows me away."
"For Chrissakes, Terry. If you're going to get it, you're going to get it and there's nothing you can do about it." This is the veteran Biagini talking.
Lee is from San Luis Obispo, Calif. He has shaggy hair and a beard, and he likes to party and hit home runs. A few days earlier, Lee was on the balcony of the hotel in Laredo, going from door to door, knocking and saying, "Hey man, is your shower working? Can I take a shower?"