By Pablo Jaime Sainz
It is almost 7 p.m. on a Thursday night and Estadio Calimax, in Tijuana, is full of baseball fans who defy the old stereotype that says that the only sport Mexicans like is soccer.
Baseball is strong in Tijuana really strong.
And now that the city’s team, Los Potros de Tijuana, has started its 2005 season, ‘beisbol’ fans don’t need to go to Petco Park to get the flavor of the game.
Part of the Mexican Baseball League, Los Potros de Tijuana came back this season after 14 years in the shadows, and one season after Tijuana’s other team, Los Toros, moved.
“I was really excited when I heard Los Potros were coming back,” said Ricardo Gutierrez, who said he was at the stadium when Los Potros won the 1991 Liga del Pacifico championship against Toma-teros de Culiacán. “The other team that just left, Los Toros, wasn’t really good. But Los Potros have roots here in Tijuana. They put Tijuana in the map when they became champions in 1991.”
The public’s enthusiasm can be felt at Estadio Calimax, Los Potros’ official baseball stadium that’s located in Tijuana’s majestic Cerro Colorado.
Before the game begins, a banda sinaloense is playing a round of traditional songs, such as “El sauce y la palma.” Fans start dancing to the rhythm of the music, which can be heard in the stadium’s parking lots as well.
It is that fiesta environment that can be seen at a Potros de Tijuana game what attracts hundreds of people, including Guadalupe Tellez.
“I’ve never been a baseball fan, but coming here to the stadium with my husband and my children turns out to be a really exciting family activity,” said Guadalupe, who visited Estadio Calimax on a recent night.
Another Potros fan, Gerardo Delgado, said he loves everything about baseball, and now that Tijuana has it’s own professional team, he never misses a game at Estadio Calimax, which is named after a major supermarket chain in Baja California.
“Forget soccer,” Delgado said. “Soccer fans have their little games all day on Sunday television, but we have this: Good beer, good action, and good seats!”
Los Potros de Tijuana opening game, which took place in late March, attracted about 12,000 people, almost reaching its full capacity.
Parking can be a problem for Los Potros’ fans.
“It’s a mess,” said Carlos Prieto, who had to wait about 20 minutes to find a spot. “I think they didn’t plan well enough when they built the stadium. Probably they didn’t expect so many people.”
Once inside Estadio Cali-max, the crowds go crazy when they announce Los Potros de Tijuana’s main stars: Venezuelan Luis Landaeta, Derrick White “El Potro Negro,” and Abraham and Carlos Valencia.
Some of the players are former Major League players who have found a place in Mexico’s baseball leagues.
Tijuana is part of Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, which includes teams such as Diablos Rojos del México, Sultanes de Monterrey, Saraperos de Saltillo, and Tuneros de San Luis Potosí.
Before that, from 1977 to 1991, Los Potros de Tijuana was part of Liga del Pacifico, which includes northern Mexican teams such as Tomateros de Culiacán, Venados de Mazatlán, and Naranjeros de Hermosillo.
“Hopefully Los Potros will start making a name for themselves in the league,” said fan Miguel Contreras. “They need all of our support.”
For Santiago Lopez, who lives in Playas de Tijuana, Los Potros represent a new chance for the city to be part of the King of Sports.
“We needed a good baseball badly,” he said. “Now it is a reality.”
Tickets range from about $2 to $8 dollars, and games start at 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 6 p.m. on Saturdays; and 5 p.m. on Sundays.
To learn more about Los Potros de Tijuana, and to check out the game schedule, visit www.potrosdetijuana.com.