by Jake Weirich
A baseball lesson, Nicaragua style.
I’ve been in Granada, Nicaragua for a day. Lot’s of interesting buildings and architecture, and, of course, I have to check out the baseball stadium. When I get there I notice people in the stands and a bunch of others milling around. So, I ask, “Is there a game today?”
“Si.” Two p.m., Granada Tiburones versus Beor Indians, $1.25 for the best seats.
No questions now, one ticket please.
I walk around the city for a while longer and am able to round up another American guy and a Norwegian to go. We sit four rows back just off the third base side, get some beer and take in the surroundings. Pretty rudimentary structure: think a 60-year-old non-renovated spring training park, or a large college or high school stadium. There are tons of vendors. It seems that if you pay five cents you can come in and sell whatever you want: water in plastic baggies, peanuts, beer, soda, fried chicken, fried beans, fried meat (unspecified type), fried anything, other things in baggies that I don’t want to know about, and if you live close enough you can bring in your own cook-stove set, it in the aisle, and start cooking there too. Since the three of us are of non-latino descent we are common targets for pretty much everything.
Anyway, I am keeping score and explaining minor baseball things to the Norwegian guy while the game goes on at a rather slow pace. Beor scores five runs off a two-run single and a three-run homer in the fourth inning and Granada can’t get anything going versus a very tough Beor pitcher. He gives up only two hits in seven innings. The most exciting thing to happen at this point is the cheerleaders walking around when the game is being played and the home-plate ump stopping the game and glaring at them until they get back on top of the home-team dugout. Did I mention they have cheerleaders in Nicaraguan baseball? Well, they do.
So, it’s the eighth inning and Beor brings in a new pitcher and once again Granada cannot get a lick off him. The Norwegian guy comments about how nothing happens in baseball. Beor at this point is playing rather lazily and it feels wrong that most of the fans are leaving at the end of eight. Beor goes quietly in the top of the ninth, and in the bottom, the first two Granada batters single and then ground into a fielder’s choice, runner out at second. The next batter strikes out. Two outs, man on first, down 6-0. Even more fans head for home. Then the next guy hits it deep to the shortstop for a single, but the shortstop throws it to first anyway and overthrows it past the first baseman. The guy from first heads to third, and the batter heads to second. Still two out, men on second and third, 6-0. The next batter hits it to the third baseman who promptly sails it over the 1st baseman’s head and the runners from second and third score and the batter reaches second base. Two outs, man on second, 6-2. Single, first and third. Walk, bases loaded. Pitching change. Walk, bases loaded, 6-3. Walk, bases loaded, 6-4.
At this point Granada has already pulled all of its good players because they were losing so bad, and up to bat is this kid who struck out so badly his first at bat the inning before he didn’t even get booed. Real small, 5’6″, 140 pouonds sopping wet, fully clothed, wearing shoes, and his hat, with a beard and long hair. He is small. I turn to the Norwegian and say, “This is when baseball is the cruelest sport on earth.”
On a 1-1 count he raps a single past the second baseman who was moving to cover the bag, and since the right fielder was playing deep two runs are able to score. The stadium is going CRAZY, it’s refilled to over capacity and is doing this crazy clapping rhythm that we are trying to keep up with. It is louder than ANY stadium I have ever been, and there are only MAYBE 2000 people. Anyways, it’s now a tie game. The third pitcher of the inning is so nervous he throws his first THREE warm-up pitches to the backstop, and this whips the crowd into even more of a frenzy. The umpires wait for the cops to put on riot gear before resuming the game.
So, here we are, Granada has scored 6 runs to tie it with two outs and they have the winning run at third. What happens? Well, the Granada batter raps it to short, the shortstop bobbles it, pulls the first baseman off the bag with the throw, and a DANCE PARTY ERUPTS AT HOME PLATE. Seriously, everyone floods the field, the P.A. starts blaring reggaetone and everyone dances for a half hour. It is nuts, the whole place is cheering “Viva Granada!” and just acting looney. On the walk back to the hostel everyone is screaming from cars and drinking and stopping traffic. Absolutely amazing. The Norwegian guy says to me, “Wow, I guess exciting stuff does happen in baseball.”
Yes, it does. Just a little classic world baseball on a Saturday afternoon.
Jake Weirich is a graduate of the University of Michigan and an amateur baseball writer who likes to focus on culture and sport. He is currently traveling throughout Central America, but makes his home in Denver, Colorado.
About Editors’ Choice:
Every week we choose one of the great stories we’ve received from travelers around the world and present it here as our “Editors’ Choice.” For more about the editors, see About Travelers’ Tales Staff.