Waiting for the ferryboat that would take me to the island of Cozumel, I sat on a ledge overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Suddenly, my ears perked up as I overheard a conversation by some local passengers speaking in their native tongue. Unmistakably, one of the gentlemen stopped in mid-sentence and blurted out the name, “Reyes.”
I continued to eavesdrop in hopes that the dialogue would keep its focus on other names connected to anyone who might play for the New York Mets. As it became obvious that the conversation had zero to do with baseball, my Mets withdrawal became apparent.
Up until now, my only tangible experience other than periodically checking up on the team’s current news and notes had been an unsuspected sighting of a Mets fan wearing a baseball cap inside the pedestrian walkway (Avedia de Cinco) of Playa del Carmen. Perhaps I was asking for too much. I was, currently, far from the Big Apple. Most people wouldn’t need instant Mets gratification when the weather up North is below freezing and so warm south of the border. I guess the easiest thing for me to do was to just give up and enjoy my vacation. But, for someone like me, who makes an effort to stay abreast of every little detail that pertains to the game of baseball, I just couldn’t accept that solution so easily.
To some, my situation seemed dire but I refused to give up. I decided to consider all possible leads regarding the sport of baseball. With the motivation brought on by a newly-found culture and the fact that I only had a short stint left inside an unfamiliar land, I experienced a new burst of energy. I examined a downtown map of San Miguel, the epicenter of Cozumel, and set out to discover a section of the “El Centro” neighborhood labeled simply, “Stadium Beisbol.”
The location was a mere seven blocks from where I was staying. Somewhere between the intersection of Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and Aldolfo Rosoda Salas, balls and strikes were being called. I turned to my wife with jubilation and told her, “I would like to check out this place before we leave.”
Of course, her first reaction was that I was totally nuts. With that said, it took several days for me to actually experience this part of my trip. Many mornings passed by in which I was awaken by a nearby rooster’s crow and still, I couldn’t find any additional information concerning the local baseball stadium. I scoured the Internet for any info but nothing, nada, as they say here. The most I learned was that a semi-pro ball club played their home games at some point.
For now, I was left to wonder when this pro team played and against who. Perhaps, I would be lucky enough to see the next Oliver Perez. Maybe one of their beloved sluggers would manage to hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. That would be something, traveling a quarter of the way this side of the globe to witness one of the greatest games of my life. No matter where you were or when you saw it, you’ll never forget it. That is the beauty of baseball, a team game made up of a roster of individuals who demanded nothing less than perfection from themselves. Why would these Mexican ball players expect anything less?
After being dragged around shopping for a bunch of tacky souvenirs, I reached a compromise with my wife: 5 stores and then we go check out the stadium. Success! Alas, the stadium was empty. I realized that I wasn’t going to be regaled with any tailor-made double plays or diving catches. I wouldn’t even be able to break for a moment from all the action and sit through a pitching change. I just had to accept it, there wasn’t going to be any baseball being played today.
Fortunately, I was able to explore the confines by way of an unlocked gate. I traversed from right field to left field, sat right behind home plate, and stared down from the pitcher’s mound. I may not have witnessed a single inning but I had good faith that many will be taking my place when the umpire eventually yells, “Jugar Beisbol.”
For me, I will be back inside New York soon enough counting down the days until Spring Training.