Soccer might just as well have been on the card Wednesday night at Scottsdale Stadium. But it was fans of Mexican baseball, with their faces painted red, green and white — and wearing and waving their country’s flags — who showed up.
That’s just what Major League Baseball hoped for with the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Although Mexico’s opponent was relatively unknown South Africa, fans of Mexico showed up and made their presence known, cheering from batting practice on.
“We will follow our country’s team in any sport,” said Azucena Salinas, who traveled from Reynosa, Mexico, with friends to see the game. “We’re proud of them. They are major league players, but we know they still love the game and their country. They play with heart.”
Julio Garcia had simple reasons for making the trek from San Diego. “I come to see my country play,” said Garcia, his face painted to look like a Mexican flag, “and my cousin.”
Garcia’s cousin, pitcher Esteban Loaiza of the Oakland A’s, said the players relish the opportunity to participate in what they hope will become an annual event.
“Seeing the support and the way the fans dress up and show Mexico’s colors feels great,” Loaiza said. “This tournament is brand new and can’t be compared to the World Cup. But, it can get there. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Jose Acuna Jr. came from Las Vegas with friends and family to see all four games at Scottsdale Stadium. Mexico was the one he really waited for.
“National team things are always a big deal,” he said. “I’m a baseball fan. Now that they dropped baseball from the Olympics, this tournament will become like baseball’s World Cup for us.”
Carlos Licea of Mazatlan, Mexico, with a Mexican flag draped around his shoulders, spoke with pride of being at the game.
“They have to start somewhere with this (tournament),” he said. “It’s fun to see it at the start and say you are a part of it. Who knows what it will become?”
A group of about 300 employees of Dräger Medical participated in a company fun event Wednesday at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Dräger, which has offices throughout the United States and abroad, develops, manufactures and sells products, services and solutions for acute patient and home care.
Activities included building and racing covered wagons, a Wild West Olympics, tricycle races and the favorite, bike building 101. Each team of eight or nine members was given an unassembled boy’s and girl’s bicycle and had to put them together.
Six children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Arizona were given bikes. The remaining bikes, about 50, will be given to other needy children.
Joan Golen of Scottsdale said she was one of a few Arizonans attending the event. Most were from municipalities around the nation.
“It was a surprise to us. We didn’t have time to figure strategy or anything,” Golen said. “We just worked together to get them done. We just all had fun.”
Jerry D’Agostino of Long Island, N.Y., was happy to be on the West Coast. His job was putting wheels on the two bikes his team assembled. Did they come out OK? “Yeah,” D’Agostino said. “The second time.”