Hey folks, thanks to all my amigos here in Caracas for welcoming me to Venezuela. I even got to play some tennis yesterday, and didn´t pull any muscles (that I´m aware of).
Friday night was my first game on the VZbaseball trip, which I attended with my good friend Ben Rodriguez of Osprey Tours.
We arrived at the Estadio Universitario after 8, in the bottom of the third. You always have to account for traffic in Caracas. Right away, we saw Eugenio Suarez, who played short most of this year for Detroit, and Yorvit Torrealba, a long time Major Leaguer, bat for the Leones of Caracas.
The stands are alive. There is constant activity. This is my third time in the stadium but it´s hard to focus on the baseball sometimes. One lucky fan, Orlando, is chosen to dance with Leo, the lion mascot, and the Caracas dance team. He´s not that into it–or is distracted by the dance team– until Leo starts humping him, rather inappropriately. I don´t want to see the man behind that costume. In later innings there is more lascivious dancing from the crowd, shown on the stadium big screen, to wild applause and jeers. A large woman in a green dress is the people´s choice. Everyoné is having a blast-Friday night in Caracas.
The old audio speakers dangle like metallic bell flowers from the cement overhang. Constantly we are reminded who we are supporting: “Como se dice? LEY–OH!” (What do we say? Leo!) In later innings, the endless bachata is replaced by the Ramones´Blitzkrieg Bop for three magic minutes.
The boy next to me, 9-year-old Nestor Viloria, may be the only Bravos fan in the stadium, but it doesn´t dampen his enthusiasm. He applauds loudly for each player while his dad Carlos, an English teacher, keeps score. A few years ago the Viloria family met Bravos manager Henry Blanco, an 18-year Major League veteran, having breakfast on Margarita island. Henry was kind to Nestor, signed his autograph, etc. Of such small acts of kindness are lifelong fans made.
The game is very well played–Suarez and his fellow shortstop, the Bravos (and New York Mets prospect) Wilfredo Tovar, make excellent plays: Suarez a diving, late inning stop; Tovar a brave (Bravo?) double play, leaping over a sliding Leones baserunner. Henry Rodriguez of Caracas makes a diving stab of a ground ball moments after committing an error.
We consume various foods….the ubiquitous tequeños (below, fried cheese sticks), popcorn, two plastic Dixie-size cups of beer. The kid selling the beer has to note each sale on a piece of cardboard he carries around with him.
The Leones squeeze out of 3-2 victory, and the resulting fireworks display in centerfield scares the heck out of a stray dog in the gallery, sending the little fellow scampering across the now-abandoned bleachers.
Ben´s a bit under the weather, I´m just getting my feet under me. We walk through the throng, mindful of pickpockets, and share a taxi home.
Thanks, Marvin the popcorn man. We had a great time.