The Working Gringos still aren’t quite sure how we missed this, but we did. Two days ago, the Leones (Lions), Yucatan’s baseball team, won the series to become the champions of the National Mexican League of Baseball… or as it is known locally, Liga Mexicana de Béisbol. More than 25,000 Meridanos (a crowd to rival Carnival) paraded in the streets from Paseo Montejo to the Zocalo, where they were received by the Governor, Patricio Patrón Laviada. (No, we don’t think he’s related to the famous tequila family, but quien sabe? ). According to the story in the paper, the crowd paid tribute to its team with aplausos ("applause"… that one is easy), porras (we had to look this one up: "cheers", although it can also mean "nightsticks"!) and bocinazos (our favorite and another one for the dictionary. It means "honking".) We must have been sleeping very soundly at the time, exhausted from having just returned from a three-week road trip, because we certainly live close enough to hear all that!
The Leones have been a contender for many years, but the last time they were champions was 21 years ago. Die-hard fans have been waiting a long time! The Yucatan team beat the Monterrey Sultanes (Sultans) in five games held last week, culminating in a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Needless to say, we are very happy for our home town team and ashamed to admit that we have only ever attended one baseball game. At the time, three years ago, it was a tropical evening. Attendance was high enough to enjoy the crowd but the stadium wasn’t full. The event reminded us of what baseball probably used to be back in the States before so much money was poured into the sport. Sure, the stadium had a sound system, but we don’t remember a video screen. The signs to the ticket booth were still hand-lettered and the seats looked like they had seen better days. Most of the banners hanging from the fence in the outfield were for local businesses.
What was different was the entertainment. The Leones have a mascot, a lion of course. And the mascot did a lot of dancing and interacting with the crowd. Another very important part of the entertainment were the ballboys. But in the case of the Leones (and perhaps all the Mexican teams?), the ballboys are ball GIRLS. And they are beautiful and they don’t wear a lot of clothing (it’s hot, you know). We don’t remember baseball having cheerleaders in the States, but they are a definite fixture here.
The Leones have their own website (in Spanish of course). The website has a lot of good information, including a players’ roster (there are players from Venezuela, the US, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but most are from the Yucatan). There’s also a history of the team, which was started in 1954 and has two previous league championships. And there’s a history of the stadium, el Parque de Béisbol Kukulcán, which was completed in 1982 (okay, so those seats aren’t so old…). (Here’s an interesting fact about the stadium. It was built for less than $20 million pesos. In today’s dollars, that’s less than $2 million USD. About the same price as a fixer-upper in Southern California!) .
If you are a baseball fan who appreciates the purity and sheer pleasure of the game, a Leones game is just the ticket. And it’s a pretty cheap ticket too. Those prices aren’t dolares! Palco means ‘box seats’. Butaca naranja is the ‘orange seats’, butaca alta are the ‘high seats’. And General is obvious… These cost about fifty cents! Such a deal!
Now that the Leones are Mexico’s champions, those tickets might be a little harder to get. Next season, just be sure to get to the stadium early and follow the hand-lettered signs. Go Leones!