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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
Opened originally in 1976, the Estadio Casas GEO is the home of Águilas de Mexicali (Mexicali Eagles). Their home stadium is known as El Nido (The Nest) and has a capacity of 19,500. The team competes in the eight-team Mexican Pacific League, which runs from October to January each season. Over the years, the team has had notable MLB players such as John Kruk, Mike Piazza, Fernando Valenzuela, and Sergio Romo.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
I didn't try any, but seeing as how all the food vendors were wearing masks over their faces and the stories I had heard about "Montezuma's Revenge", I wasn't too keen on trying anything.
Mexican Winter League games feel like a community event. It seems like the game is the place to be on a Sunday afternoon. I would recommend that true baseball fans see a Mexican Winter League game before they die. This stadium has seen winter league action since 1976, making it the second newest in the league.
Mexicali is a gritty and rough town, and the neighborhood surrounding the ballpark doesn't really scream "tourist haven." There are a bunch of chop shops and vendors selling knock-off cell phones and DVDs. Being around there after dark, I actually felt a little unsafe. As such, I didn't stick around to find any nightlife opportunities.
The fans of the Aguilas de Mexicali are very passionate and vocal. They join in every chant and sound effect, and stay until the very end. You can expect to see quite a lot of families in attendance.
The ballpark is in the middle of a sports complex, so parking is rather plentiful. If you drive, you won't have any problems. As a person who prefers to take public transportation or walk to the games, however, it is quite out of the way, especially from the main border crossing in Calexico (about three miles through pretty rough-looking neighborhoods). The bathrooms are pretty rundown, very unsanitary and there are not enough of them. Not one of the most pleasant memories in my travels.
Know in advance that the organization only accepts pesos. Still, considering the exchange rate, it costs about $8 US to go. Mexican Winter League games are comparable to Double-A Minor League Baseball. There are some former Major Leaguers playing in the game, so it does have the air of professionalism to it. Considering how unique the experience is, I'd definitely pay more.
Make sure you have a tacit grasp of the Spanish language or go with someone who can speak Spanish. I realized when I got to the park that this is not a tourist attraction that is frequented by many Americans. I took Spanish in high school and brushed up on some key phrases before my trip, but I was woefully under prepared for the language barrier. It will help you out, trust me.
Have an exit plan from the ballpark when you leave, especially after dark. I was stuck outside the ballpark on a street corner trying to hail a cab for nearly an hour. I felt rather vulnerable and alone. Having someone who knows the area may help with this.
If you don't drive, consider walking across the border. There is no wait time or passport check going from the US to Mexico. It's simply a rotating gate like what you see at some banks. Coming back into the US, I waited in line for about 90 minutes. You do require a passport to come back, and Border Patrol did grill me for about five minutes to ensure I wasn't a drug mule.
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