SANTIAGO, D.R.–The other day, I was talking to a National League scout and he told me simply, "Always get to the park early. The earlier you're there, the more you'll know."
I'm actually notorious for showing up at ballparks early, but when I arrived at El Stadio Cibao before noon for a 3 p.m. tilt, all I really learned is that it smells like a frat house the day after homecoming.
The park is beautiful with a great playing surface and the fans truly hang on every pitch. But it's a party, plain and simple. All kinds of alcohol is available–I'm talking fifths of pick your poison–to go along with plenty of Presidente.
The day started surreal, again, really with the cab ride to the stadium. Every cab ride I struggle to speak Spanish with the driver, so much so that some of them have gone so far as to just turn the music up extremely loud to drown out my weak attempts to communicate.
It's frustrating and nobody's fault but mine. I hate coming across like an ignorant American slob.
Anyway, so today I jumped in the cab and we drove off. All of the sudden, R.E.M.'s 'Man on the Moon' came on and the driver started singing along as we passed through the narrow streets that lead to the ballpark.
For the record, Glenn Frey followed the second-best band from Athens, Ga. (Pylon is definitely first.)
The American music just continued at the ballpark, which is a rarity. It's usually some derivative of salsa or merengue, but today, as cleanup crews swept up the mess from Opening Night, Madonna's 'Like A Prayer' was blasting.
I spoke briefly with Aguilas infielder Rafael Furcal, who was walking through the concourse, with Madonna playing in the background. I can guarantee you that a conversation with Furcal, complete with a Madonna soundtrack, will never happen again in this lifetime.
So get to the ballpark early no matter what. You never know what you might miss.