Baseball is different in Tijuana

“We know baseball games are too long, so we are there to help make the game more fun.”

Players generally make between $2000 and $8000 per month in Mexico. The cap is $10,000.
  • Players generally make between $2000 and $8000 per month in Mexico. The cap is $10,000.
  • Image by Andy Boyd

Every pitch is a party at a Toros de Tijuana baseball game. At least that’s the atmosphere the team is trying to create. The Toros compete in Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, an international AAA affiliate of Major League Baseball. A Toros crowd is generally made up of east Tijuana locals, binationals, and few gringos. They pay on average 200 pesos (about $10.60) for a seat at Toros 17,350 seat stadium, Estadio Gasmart in Colonia Capistrano.

Also for the not-so-scantily-clad

Also for the not-so-scantily-clad

The team’s mascots are Toro Torín (a bull), Pollo Layo (a chicken), Chango 0Te (a monkey who sometimes appears with his son), and Aminowana (a lizard).

The team’s owner, along with his partners, is Alberto Uribe Maytorena, a millionaire from Tijuana who made his fortune as a Baja-based gasoline entrepreneur.

At Inauguracion 2016 (opening night) in April, the Spanish voice of Major League Baseball and the Padres, Tijuana’s own Eduardo Ortega, leads a ceremony honoring the nine tijuanenses who have played Major League Baseball. The game starts after 9 p.m. (Most Padres night games start at 7:10.)

Scantily clad cheerleaders down the foul lines bump and grind during game pauses.

Scantily clad cheerleaders down the foul lines bump and grind during game pauses.

Throughout the stadium, military personnel stand atop military gun trucks and carry automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. They’re there for opening night ceremonies. Police chat amongst themselves throughout the stadium. “Mexico, at the cry of war,” the Mexican national anthem, is led by a brass and percussion military marching band. Without a public address system, the anthem is barely audible. Without proper illumination, the Mexican flag beyond the centerfield fence blends into the background.

“There are other stadiums — Mexico City and Puebla — where the fans are really into the game. But we have more of them.”

“There are other stadiums — Mexico City and Puebla — where the fans are really into the game. But we have more of them.”

The game begins. Banda, norteño, reggaeton, as well as Spanish and American pop play throughout. The music only stops when the pitcher sets and until the ball pops the catcher’s mitt. When African-Americans from the opposing team come to bat, the home team plays 1970s funk. Scantily clad cheerleaders down the foul lines bump and grind during game pauses. Vendors sell cecina (beef jerky), sugary piña coladas, cotton candy, flan, churros, and Tecate.

Randy Arms. In the last games against Puebla, Toros management began introducing Randy as the team’s number-one fan.

Randy Arms. In the last games against Puebla, Toros management began introducing Randy as the team’s number-one fan.

We poke fun at the fans

Cameramen film the various characters of Inauguracion. When there is a pretty woman on the jumbotron, the production team plays a song about a beautiful woman. Some of the women blow kisses, some show off their behinds or worse, while others uncomfortably avoid eye contact with the lens. The crowd, when the game drags, relies on the jumbotron, dancing girls, and mascots for entertainment.

Before an out has been recorded, the first people on the scoreboard television for Toros 2016 season is an elderly couple. The man makes out with his wife on camera. She’s embarrassed. The crowd loves it. Toros right fielder Texas-born Dustin Martin watches and smirks from his position.

More dancing ladies — tacos de ojos — the Mexican slang equivalent of eye candy.

More dancing ladies — tacos de ojos — the Mexican slang equivalent of eye candy.

Ernesto Alvarado is part of the production team on Toros’ jumbotron. He specializes in camera work. “The main objective of our work is to invite fans to support the team in a fun way,” he says. “We know baseball games are too long, so we are there to help make the game more fun. Most of those attending the games are not baseball fans. They’re people going somewhere to spend an afternoon or evening in a good atmosphere for family fun. That’s why we poke fun at the fans.”

Los Tigres Del Norte - Jefe De Jefe

For instance, when a man with a ranch workers hat appears on the screen, the production team plays “Jefe de Jefes” (Boss of Bosses) by Los Tigres del Norte, a band which plays accordion-heavy, polka-rhythmed norteño music.

The team films people while they eat, and incorporates a dance cam and kiss cam. Alvarado admits not everyone likes the images the production team projects. “The jumbotron can cause some controversy for the diehard baseball fans, but, overall, the work shown on the screen is very much accepted by fans and other franchises in the league.”

He brags that the experience at a Toros game is the best in Mexico. “It’s why Toros are more than baseball,” he says, referencing the team’s slogan in Spanish ‘Somos mas que beisbol.’

Tecate logos decorate the uniforms, and Tecate beers are sold throughout the ballpark for 30 pesos — about $1.50. (It’s $7.25 for a beer at Petco Park.) There’s no last call. (No alcohol is sold after the 7th inning at all Major League Baseball parks.) Periodically, a deep pre-recorded voice over a drum beat yells “Toma! Toma!” (English: “Chug! Chug!”).

Chu chu wa wa!

Kids love “Chu Chu Wa Wa,” a march which functions like the seventh inning stretch, but happens between the sixth and seventh innings. Whenever a runner gets on base, Joel Higuera’s “El Baile de la Toallita” plays. Juan Gabriel’s “La Mera Mera”, a song commissioned by Tijuana’s tourism board, plays a prominent part at Toros games. Mera mera (or mero mero) is a local expression that translates roughly to the very best.

Juan Gabriel - La Mera Mera

Lo mas bonito de San Diego es…” the stadium’s loudspeakers plays Juan Gabriel singing the song’s first lyrics. And, in their best moments, the crowd yells in unison: “Tijuanaaa!” This works especially well when the game is going in Toros direction. English: “The most beautiful part of San Diego is... Tijuana.”

Joel Higuera - El Baile de la Toallita

Interestingly, Tijuana, home to 1.8 million inhabitants (Mexico City has 17.4 million), has produced more Major League Baseball players than any other city in the nation of nearly 130 million. They are: Andrés Berumen, Jorge Campillo, Benjamín Gil, brothers Edgar Gonzalez and Adrian Gonzalez, Esteban Loaiza, Oscar Robles, Freddy Sandoval, and José Silva.

Pochos

The Toros’ American players are predominantly from the southwest: Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Infielders Oscar Robles and Emmanuel Valdez hail from Tijuana.

First baseman Roberto Lopez and starting pitcher Alex Sanabia are from San Diego. For the younger players, the dream is to play in the big leagues. At Inauguracion 2016, perhaps many fans noted the increasing number of Mexican-Americans on their border team; indeed, this was indicative of recent changes in Liga Mexicana de Béisbol.

When Pooky Gomez first started baseball freelancing a few years ago, taxistas picking him up at the border did not know who Toros were or who they played. Now they do.

Mascots Pollo Layo (a chicken), Chango 0Te (a monkey) start by throwing bananas into the crowd.

Mascots Pollo Layo (a chicken), Chango 0Te (a monkey) start by throwing bananas into the crowd.

The closest Mexico organization to his home in Los Angeles, Toros acted as an inroad for Gomez, a former player in the Mexican minor leagues, into the baseball business. He networks with Mexican teams that come to Tijuana and has personal relationships with some Toros players. He played in the minor leagues in Mexico.

Gomez, 36, sometimes sits behind home plate with team owners and other executives. He’s fluent in Spanish and English, but he’s not Mexican. His main hustle seems to be selling MaxBats, maple bats manufactured in Minnesota, to players.

When we speak, he’s enjoying two weeks off and preparing for Mexicali’s “While many players might make $800 per month in U.S. independent ball, they can make $2000 equivalent here in Mexico.” Those are the guys Gomez helps.

“Let’s say there’s a kid [playing in Mexico garnering] interest from America,” he says. “Let’s say you’re a team, the Padres, and they contact Toros about one of the players they like, say, starting pitcher Alex Sanabia. We ask what they want to offer. And they say, ‘We want to give him an opportunity.’ And we say, ‘That’s wonderful, what do you want to offer for the talent?’”

Unlike for Japanese talent, Major League teams do not need to bid for talking rights to access players, due to the league’s status as a minor league affiliate.

“The teams always give a ridiculous number,” he explains, “say, $2000. We counter with $200,000. They say they can get a Dominican for $2000. They argue they’ll have to send our player to rookie ball, and they won’t see him for five years. Why would they invest $100k on a project that may or may not happen?”

Gomez concludes, “To shorten it up this is why we don’t see more Mexicans in the minor leagues and major leagues,” he says.

The business side of baseball in Mexico is tricky, he says. “Are we in the league to just have league or in a league to make money out of people?” The league is still gestating. Mexican baseball underwent a major transformation in 2016: unlimited Mexican-Americans per team.

Before 2016, Liga Mexicana de Beisbol only allowed each team to have three Mexican-Americans and six foreigners. The rest had to be Mexican citizens.

Teams like Toros and Pericos de Puebla began scouting, while many other teams did not. Pooky started scouting the southwest US border areas. He’d look for former AA or AAA players now playing independent ball, and invite them to try out.

“[Other teams] did not dedicate resources to hiring a scouting team,” Gomez says. “Mexico City, Monterrey, Cancun, and Oaxaca were complaining because the pool opened to sign Mexican-Americans, the ‘pochos’ they called us.” Gomez refers to a reputation Toros developed as being Mexican-Americans, for which pocho is a derogatory term.

In 2015, the roster had just six foreigners, including Mexican-Americans, though it’s not always cut-and-dried who’s what. In 2016, the team had fifteen Mexican-Americans, says Gomez.

Most of Toros starting pitching staff in 2016? Pochos. “Think about that,” Gomez says. “This time last year, the league had barely tested Mexican-Americans.”

Players come to Mexico because pay in the U.S. independent leagues — Atlantic League or American Association league — is no good. “You’re better off working at Wal-Mart,” Gomez says. Players generally make between $2000 and $8000 per month in Mexico. The cap is $10,000.

But the baseball freelancer says he’s realistic with the foreigners he helps bring south. “They are mostly realistic themselves,” he says. “They know they are journeymen. Whenever new personnel come down, I tell them real quick: You could be here for seven weeks or seven years. Both happen. Some come down thinking they are going to play a couple weeks then get called back up. It happens, but it’s rare.” He says there’s a stigma about Mexican baseball which “works against those that are playing in Mexico. Our players get cheated. ‘Ah, it’s Mexico,’ they say. It takes a good GM who can think outside the box to consider a player here. Generally, it’s like selling a used car to someone that wants a new car.”’

Gomez says that he couldn’t cobble together an informal living around baseball, as he’s done through Mexican baseball, in the U.S. “In MLB, there’s three sets of security to get into the locker room, and you have to have credentials. It’s like the Pentagon.”

Crafty pitchers

Toros slugger, Dustin Martin, who was drafted by the New York Mets in 2006, finds Mexican baseball more competitive than he thought it would be.

“Most people say you’re going to play in Mexico League, they might not think it’s good money,” Martin says. “You come to this league, and it’s very nice. It’s established, with good stadiums, teams, and organizations. It’s very comparable to the states.”

Martin, who grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas playing in leagues with many latinos agrees the talent level is AAA — the highest minor league level in the United States. “There are ex-big leaguers throughout the league,” the 32 year-old said. “The players are experienced and know how to play the game. There aren’t many errors, pitchers are crafty.”

Asked about the pocho factor, he answers, “I think it helped the league become more competitive” the slugger said. “The backside of teams’ bullpens are stronger, and there is more [pitching] velocity.”

In September 2015, Diablos Rojos del Mexico, Tigres de Quintana Roo, Sultanes de Monterrey, and Oaxaca Warriors all left the Liga Mexicana in protest of the new rules.

At a meeting of owners, Diablos Rojos and Tigres owners (the former is owned by Padres part-owner Alfredo Harp Helú) asked to discuss the cessation of recruitment of Mexican-American players. Since the item was not on the agenda, other owners declined. The above-mentioned four team owners announced that they were leaving the league and left the meeting room.

The president of the league Pliny Escalante said the remaining 12 owners will not yield to what they consider a “blackmail”

Eighty six Mexican-Americans played in the Liga Mexicana in 2016, representing 13.4 percent of the 640 players on rosters of the 16 teams.

“Because fuck him!”

I made it back out to Estadio Gasmart for Game 2 of the Campeones Serie Zona Norte (championship of the league’s north division) versus Sultanes de Monterrey. This time with Antonio Ley, local nightlife promoter and political advocate on both sides of the border. Like for most weeknight games, we head for the stadium amid Tijuana rush hour traffic.

The 17,350 seat stadium is a 15-20 minute drive (sans traffic) from the San Ysidro border crossing. It stands just off Via Rapida in southeast Tijuana. Its Colonia Capistrano neighborhood, at the base of Cerro Colorado hill, one of the city’s highest points, is less than desirable.

The stadium was constructed in 1976 in what was then cheap land on the outskirts of Tijuana. Now, it’s surrounded by barrio sprawl. The stadium sits about 24 miles from Petco Park.

It’s not easy to get to this ballpark. A one-lane road leads in, and another out. Tickets for high-demand games are bought up by scalpers. The stadium has room for approximately 500 cars, so people park in the neighborhood, on the streets, and wherever else they can.

At Game 2, two fist fights break out. There are no Monterrey fans to be seen. Chango the gorilla and Torin the bull, get married in a ceremony atop the Toros dugout with a chicken mascot as their witness. Aminowana the lizard gives lap dances to men. He uses his tail between his legs as a phallic symbol, and crowd chants, “Joto! Joto! Joto!” — the Mexican putdown for “faggot.”

Ley quips, “I don’t know how the San Diego Gay Men’s choir would do in TJ.”

Tecate beers are sold throughout the ballpark for about $1.50. (It’s $7.25 a beer at Petco.)

Tecate beers are sold throughout the ballpark for about $1.50. (It’s $7.25 a beer at Petco.)

On the scoreboard, those in attendance are fat-shamed, bald-shamed, shamed for being on the cellphone, and so on. The Padres Friar, and Padres girls — The Pad Squad — come out for a half inning. Between innings, cheerleader teams representing Toros, Gasmart (a Baja supermarket chain), and Tecate perform dance routines, mostly in front of Toros dugout. The players watch while chewing on sunflower seeds and tobacco. Toros’ little person batboy, Chevale, cheers on the team. And the cheerleaders.

Though it wasn’t served opening night, Lagunitas, which entered into a partnership with Tecate parent Heineken in 2015, was served in the stadium for 50 pesos ($2.75). Tijuana beats Monterrey by a wide margin.

They clinch the north championship series a few days later in Game 7 in Monterrey. They face Pericos de Puebla, south division champions in La Serie del Rey, the season’s final series. We buy tickets online. It takes several tries as the team’s servers seem to be slow. Ley and I procure four tickets for Game 1 of the series.

Tijuana has home-field advantage for the series. The team is reportedly told by Liga Mexicana de Beisbol it can no longer stream the games live on its Facebook page, as it had done throughout the playoffs. The games are still pirated and streamed on Beistv.mx and its Facebook page.

In Game 1, Tijuana fans yell at former Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, current Perico (parakeet) left fielder, Nyjer Morgan. You can tell, as he dances to the music in the outfield, that Morgan likes the attention. He looks over at the crowd and points, runs by and yells some stuff back at the crowd. He’s smiling and having fun. But when he throws a ball at the two who had been yelling “Tony Plush” — his Major League nickname, they throw it back. The mood turns. Morgan is pissed. So is an umpire, at Morgan for having thrown the ball into the stands. Morgan shakes his head and, annoyed, inaudibly yells at the fans. He yells at them again after the third out is recorded. Gets close as possible on his route to the third base-side visitors dugout.

A couple innings later, I talk to the fans about why they threw the ball back. One of them, a Mexicali native says: “Because fuck him, he’s on the other team. Plus, he struck out in his next at-bat!”

In the ninth inning, Martin hits a game-winning, walk-off home run. The crowd goes wild. Ley and I try not to spill our Lagunitas, bought before the start of the top of the ninth, as we leap out of our seats to watch the ball fly over the left-center field fence. As Martin is about to touch home plate, he points towards his family in their box seats. Fifteen minutes after the game ends, I see former Padre, current Perico, Ruben Rivera buying a Tecate at the concession stand.

As I readied myself for Game 2, half of Tijuana was without water. A main line east of the city was being replaced and water service was cut. I showered in a half-gallon of Ciel drinking water and made my way to the game. The game is uneventful, and Toros trailed the entire time. When I order my beer at the Lagunitas area in the left field concession stand, the server asks me: “Quieres un doble?” Do I want two Lagunitas in one cup? $5.50 US.

After Game 2, a Toros 6-3 loss despite a two-run shot from Martin, a Puebla coach under police escort asks me to hold his two dobles de Tecate at the concession stands while he orders them so as not to warrant onlookers. The police escort us to the team bus. Ruben Rivera then gets two dobles de Tecate. The series, during the day off, was heading to Puebla, a city east of Acapulco.

Nobody cares

There had been approximately 575 murders in Tijuana in 2016 leading up to Game 3 of Serie del Rey, September 10, 2016. Half the city was without water, and people reported power outages. A march of 4000 in favor of traditional family (anti-gay marriage) marched in Zona Rio causing traffic havoc. All Ley could think about was the game. He went to ToroBar VIP, a nice bar overlooking the field at Gasmart where 200 pesos (about $10.60) gets you all you can drink beer during games, to watch on jumbotron. Puebla wins 8-5.

The next night, Puebla took Game 4 by a score of 5-1 at home.

Game 5, September 12, in Puebla. Toros, down 3-1 in the best-of-seven format, face elimination. I meet Ley at Norte, a boutique cerveceria in Zona Centro. We have to ask them to show the game. Nobody there cares. Later, we go to Bar Nelson, where only the Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers is being shown. The remote controls don’t work so the channel can’t be changed. Next door at Hotel Nelson, two televisions show the beisbol game. A few people watch.

We go to El Copeo, a sports bar on Revolucion where a dozen or so people watch Tijuana in Puebla. Padres vs. San Francisco Giants is being shown on three screens, while Rams vs. 49ers is on five screens. The one screen showing a Toros game has the largest crowd. Chad Gaudin, former Giant and Padre who in 2013 drunkenly groped a 23-year-old woman’s breast while she was on a gurney in a Las Vegas emergency room lobby, blows the save. Toros come back for a 9-2 win sparked by Martin’s triple. The ten people still watching celebrate.

Ticket frenzy

Ley and I go to a nearby Gasmart-owned Pemex station same night after midnight to buy tickets for Game 6. The gas attendant gives us receipts and tells us we better get to a Pemex gas station (owned by Gasmart) early to pick up our tickets. We meet at 9:00 a.m. to drive out to Estadio Gasmart. Ley’s worried about a line. I’m not. He bites his tongue.

When we walk into the parking lot, I count about 400 people already in line. More than a thousand likely came after us. People dressed in OXXO, nurse, electrician, construction, and landscape maintenance uniforms yell at suspected scalpers. (The official policy was ten tickets per customer, though some had bought dozens through various channels.) Many people had arrived at 5:00 a.m.

By 10:30 a.m., scalpers are re-selling tickets for Game 6 and 7. Painted on a concrete wall, a peanut advertisement read, “R U Nuts?” I wonder. Plenty cut in line. Ley leaves for work in downtown San Diego. I kneel to rest my body. An old man next to me suggests that I fellate him while I’m down there.

People wear hats representing southern California sports teams. Dodgers, Padres, Angels, CSU Long Beach and SDSU. A man behind me wears a Giants jacket and a Padres hat. One young family — mom, dad, and son — are decked out in black and red Toros gear.

A guy in a Monster Truck drives by with music on at full volume and yells, “Toros, Campeones!” and the crowd cheers as he speeds through the parking lot to the chagrin of parents.

At last, I exchange my gas station receipt for Game 6 tickets and bought Game 7 tickets. I had waited nearly six hours. I later learn many waited longer only to be told the game was sold out.

Before leaving, I walk around a bit and run into a Toros grounds crew employee, Albert. He speaks English well. “Where are you from?” I ask.

“I grew up in San Bernardino,” he said. “But I got into some trouble a couple of years ago and got deported.”

So close...

We arrive two hours early for Game 6. The plan is to tailgate beyond the left field fence for Game 6 equipped with Ley’s grill: a tire rim upon a rusted rolling stand.

As the lowering sun illuminates Cerro Colorado, and Toros take batting practice, we grill beef for carne asada tacos, washed down by beer.

The atmosphere surrounding Game 6 is energetic. Many of the 17,893 attendees — a sell out — walk around the stands and fraternize in the hallways. The mascots start by throwing bananas into the crowd. Chango makes allusions to his penis with the bananas. They perform an impromptu voodoo ceremony atop the away dugout. Chango takes a hit from the cauldron of imaginary elixir. It hits him hard. He walks around the dugout in a daze. He goes back for another hit.

Cheerleaders dance on the field while others walk through the stadium. Many of them text on their phones throughout the game while men indulge in tacos de ojos — the Mexican slang equivalent of eye candy. As the Toritas dance before the away dugout, Chango walks up and sprays them with silly string, then does a ballerina dance while spraying the silly string in little circles. He kisses his fingers and throws a peace sign up to the crowd. They cheer. A Toro fan’s sign on the jumbotron reads: “#TodosSomosPochos.” English: “We are all pochos.”

At one point a foul ball came in behind us, and a young man five rows up catches the ball with his bare right hand while holding a doble de Tecate in the left hand. Our section erupts. Things seem to be going Toros way. But then, a “jonrun.” (Mexican for “home run”) and Pericos lead 1-0, and the game settles into a pitchers’ duel.

In the top of the ninth, the away team scores another run. Toros fail to score in the bottom of the inning, and the Pericos celebrate on Gasmart’s turf.

I make a mental note to get reimbursed for my Game 7 tickets at the gas station.

Number one fan

Randy Arms, 54 and born in Brawley, has long lived around the border. He has blue eyes and blonde hair gone gray. He lives in the Villa Fontana area of Tijuana, not far from the stadium. He played ball in the seventies in Mexico. Now, he’s a Toros season ticket holder. He once played at Estadio Gasmart in the late 1970s. He’d told his wife about it. She ultimately learned about Toros, and she suggested they go to a game.

“I know this field,” he said as they walked in.

“I thought so,” his wife replied.

He was a bit depressed with how dilapidated the field was 35 years later. “No one had taken care of it,” he laments. “I saw it when it was brand new.” The next year, 2015, he and his wife returned for another game. The field had been restored. Uribe was putting money into the organization. Arms decided to get season tickets, but he wanted four tickets instead of just the two he and his wife would use.

“What happened was one of the vendors selling beer out of the five gallon buckets sets his ass on my shoulder,” he says. “And I was trying to get his ass off my shoulder, so I said, ‘Okay, honey, I want four seats so when vendors come by to sell beers they can sit there.”’

In 2016, he attended almost all of the Toros games. The couple he missed, “I didn’t miss ’em by choice.” He says he once paid $20 to Martin during a game after the slugger granted his request to hit a home run. Martin didn’t want to take the cash, but Arms forced it upon him: “A deal’s a deal,” he says.

Asked about the mascots, dancing girls, and jumbotron hijinks, Martin calls them distractions. “I’m not into mascots, I’m into baseball. But Chango is hilarious. He takes his personality a step further than anyone could do in the US. He does some X-rated stuff and kids shouldn’t see that. It’s funny but crass. He harasses the [cheerleaders], gets in middle of them and throws the routines off and sometimes the girls will jump on him and spray him with confetti string and pull every part of his suit,” he says. “They throw dirt on him. I love Chango, but he deserves that sometimes.”

Randy says he doesn’t care for cheerleaders in baseball. “I wish they weren’t there,” he says. “But, it brings people out to the game. I do wish they would cut back on them. There are dozens of them.”

What surprises him the most about the shenanigans at a Toros game?

“The middle finger going up on the jumbotron,” says Arms. “You’ll never see that in the US. Some women don’t want to be looked at, and they’ll give you the finger here. That’s really caught my attention.”

When there are fights going on in the stands, Arms is not happy, but he says he’s only seen minor altercations. He compliments the strict security at the games. Throughout the 2016 season, Arms introduced himself to Toros management, executives, and players. They liked him, because he knew the game. Randy quickly found himself in the locker room and dugout high-fiving players. “I like the atmosphere in the dugout, especially since I’d played in those dugouts before. It brought back memories.”

In the very last games against Puebla, Toros management began introducing Randy as the team’s number one fan. “Toros became my second family,” the gringo says. “Toros opened their doors to me. I was able to go down on the field and build relationships.”

He adds, “In the old days [in the states], players pulled their cars into the parking lot, got out, and walked passed you and you yelled their name and maybe they talked with you and signed things. Today, they park underground. You rarely get to meet them before or after the game. It’s different in Mexico.”

That one player that goes off

Dustin Martin, whose walk up song is DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak,” says he was excited to be traded to Tijuana ahead of the 2015 season from Quintana Roo in southeast Mexico. It gave him an opportunity to live in Imperial Beach with his wife, and now their newborn son. He likes Estadio Gasmart, and he knew that fan base — one he’s come to love — was good.

Before the trade, Tijuana “wasn’t really on my radar,” he says. He knew it was a border town by San Diego. He and his wife now have Sentri passes. He enjoys living stateside. He goes to Mexico for work.

The 33-year-old has played baseball around USA, as well as Venezuela and Mexico. “We definitely get the most fans,” he says. “There are other stadiums — Mexico City and Puebla — where the fans are really into the game. But we have fans into the game, and more of them.”

Does the rowdy atmosphere affect the outfielder’s play?

“I don’t really think about it,” he says. “You get used to it. I might have been a bit shocked the first couple of weeks, but it becomes second nature. I like the music, the fans — I like the brand of baseball a lot more than in the states. Even in the outfield, you can watch the sights and sounds.”

When I ask if there’s anything the MLB could learn from Mexican baseball, he mentions the jumbotron. He definitely thinks the minor leagues should take more after Mexican baseball. “They’d get a lot more fans,” he says. “That’s the truth.”

Martin finished the 2016 season with a .325 batting average and 19 home runs. He had many key hits in the playoffs, including the two home runs in the championship series. “I watch the big league playoffs, and there’s always that one player that goes off, hits some homers,” he says. “It was fun to kind of be that guy this year. I’ve taken back some great memories. The walk off in Game 1 was awesome. My wife and kid were there, but also my parents, sisters, extended family. To be able to share that with them, and watch the Tijuana fans go crazy in that moment, is very special to me and something I’ll never forget.”

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How can I get printed copies of the publication that has the article "Baseball is Different in Tijuana"?

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