Every pitch is a party at a Toros de Tijuana baseball game. At least that’s the atmosphere the team is trying to create. The Toros compete in Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, an international AAA affiliate of Major League Baseball. A Toros crowd is generally made up of east Tijuana locals, binationals, and few gringos. They pay on average 200 pesos (about $10.60) for a seat at Toros 17,350 seat stadium, Estadio Gasmart in Colonia Capistrano.
The team’s mascots are Toro Torín (a bull), Pollo Layo (a chicken), Chango 0Te (a monkey who sometimes appears with his son), and Aminowana (a lizard).
The team’s owner, along with his partners, is Alberto Uribe Maytorena, a millionaire from Tijuana who made his fortune as a Baja-based gasoline entrepreneur.
At Inauguracion 2016 (opening night) in April, the Spanish voice of Major League Baseball and the Padres, Tijuana’s own Eduardo Ortega, leads a ceremony honoring the nine tijuanenses who have played Major League Baseball. The game starts after 9 p.m. (Most Padres night games start at 7:10.)
Throughout the stadium, military personnel stand atop military gun trucks and carry automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. They’re there for opening night ceremonies. Police chat amongst themselves throughout the stadium. “Mexico, at the cry of war,” the Mexican national anthem, is led by a brass and percussion military marching band. Without a public address system, the anthem is barely audible. Without proper illumination, the Mexican flag beyond the centerfield fence blends into the background.
The game begins. Banda, norteño, reggaeton, as well as Spanish and American pop play throughout. The music only stops when the pitcher sets and until the ball pops the catcher’s mitt. When African-Americans from the opposing team come to bat, the home team plays 1970s funk. Scantily clad cheerleaders down the foul lines bump and grind during game pauses. Vendors sell cecina (beef jerky), sugary piña coladas, cotton candy, flan, churros, and Tecate.
We poke fun at the fans
Cameramen film the various characters of Inauguracion. When there is a pretty woman on the jumbotron, the production team plays a song about a beautiful woman. Some of the women blow kisses, some show off their behinds or worse, while others uncomfortably avoid eye contact with the lens. The crowd, when the game drags, relies on the jumbotron, dancing girls, and mascots for entertainment.
Before an out has been recorded, the first people on the scoreboard television for Toros 2016 season is an elderly couple. The man makes out with his wife on camera. She’s embarrassed. The crowd loves it. Toros right fielder Texas-born Dustin Martin watches and smirks from his position.
Ernesto Alvarado is part of the production team on Toros’ jumbotron. He specializes in camera work. “The main objective of our work is to invite fans to support the team in a fun way,” he says. “We know baseball games are too long, so we are there to help make the game more fun. Most of those attending the games are not baseball fans. They’re people going somewhere to spend an afternoon or evening in a good atmosphere for family fun. That’s why we poke fun at the fans.”
Los Tigres Del Norte - Jefe De Jefe
For instance, when a man with a ranch workers hat appears on the screen, the production team plays “Jefe de Jefes” (Boss of Bosses) by Los Tigres del Norte, a band which plays accordion-heavy, polka-rhythmed norteño music.
The team films people while they eat, and incorporates a dance cam and kiss cam. Alvarado admits not everyone likes the images the production team projects. “The jumbotron can cause some controversy for the diehard baseball fans, but, overall, the work shown on the screen is very much accepted by fans and other franchises in the league.”
He brags that the experience at a Toros game is the best in Mexico. “It’s why Toros are more than baseball,” he says, referencing the team’s slogan in Spanish ‘Somos mas que beisbol.’
Tecate logos decorate the uniforms, and Tecate beers are sold throughout the ballpark for 30 pesos — about $1.50. (It’s $7.25 for a beer at Petco Park.) There’s no last call. (No alcohol is sold after the 7th inning at all Major League Baseball parks.) Periodically, a deep pre-recorded voice over a drum beat yells “Toma! Toma!” (English: “Chug! Chug!”).
Chu chu wa wa!
Kids love “Chu Chu Wa Wa,” a march which functions like the seventh inning stretch, but happens between the sixth and seventh innings. Whenever a runner gets on base, Joel Higuera’s “El Baile de la Toallita” plays. Juan Gabriel’s “La Mera Mera”, a song commissioned by Tijuana’s tourism board, plays a prominent part at Toros games. Mera mera (or mero mero) is a local expression that translates roughly to the very best.
Juan Gabriel - La Mera Mera
“Lo mas bonito de San Diego es…” the stadium’s loudspeakers plays Juan Gabriel singing the song’s first lyrics. And, in their best moments, the crowd yells in unison: “Tijuanaaa!” This works especially well when the game is going in Toros direction. English: “The most beautiful part of San Diego is... Tijuana.”
Joel Higuera - El Baile de la Toallita
Interestingly, Tijuana, home to 1.8 million inhabitants (Mexico City has 17.4 million), has produced more Major League Baseball players than any other city in the nation of nearly 130 million. They are: Andrés Berumen, Jorge Campillo, Benjamín Gil, brothers Edgar Gonzalez and Adrian Gonzalez, Esteban Loaiza, Oscar Robles, Freddy Sandoval, and José Silva.
The Toros’ American players are predominantly from the southwest: Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Infielders Oscar Robles and Emmanuel Valdez hail from Tijuana.
First baseman Roberto Lopez and starting pitcher Alex Sanabia are from San Diego. For the younger players, the dream is to play in the big leagues. At Inauguracion 2016, perhaps many fans noted the increasing number of Mexican-Americans on their border team; indeed, this was indicative of recent changes in Liga Mexicana de Béisbol.
When Pooky Gomez first started baseball freelancing a few years ago, taxistas picking him up at the border did not know who Toros were or who they played. Now they do.