RIO RANCHO, New Mexico, USA (AP) – There have always been people crossing the border to play baseball, and the sport routinely crosses barriers to reach fans. But rarely do players have to cross a border almost daily to participate in a game they love while avoiding the tensions and rhetoric surrounding this imaginary line.
That’s what the members of Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos, a binational professional baseball team with stadiums in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Laredo, Texas, have to do.
A new Showtime sports documentary follows this Triple-A Mexican League team, playing on both sides of the border amid tensions over immigration, divisive politics and environmental concerns. “Bad Hombres” focuses on the 2019 Tecolotes season, when players chase dreams and a championship, while dodging members of a drug cartel in the city.
Players often cross the border on foot for each game, with their team on their shoulders. They must also run into a Mexican militarized tank patrolling their stadium parking lot in Nuevo Laredo amid cartel battles. The team must wear US Customs and Border Protection badges at games in Laredo sponsored by the federal agency.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s heated rhetoric about a border wall and his promises to “close the border” threaten the team’s season. Immigrants fleeing violence in Central America arrive in both cities.
For the two cities connected by economy and family ties, the Tecolotes serve as a welcome unifier, even if it is only for nine innings.
Los Angeles second baseman Juan Martinez thinks about all of this as he tries to focus on hitting a low slider out on the opposite side. Catcher Luis Flores, 32, embarks on one of the best seasons of his career, but must decide whether to accept a job as a coach at a high school in Del Rio, Texas, to be close to his young family .
Catcher Cristian Mejía, from Sinaloa, Mexico, receives calls from his mother pleading with him to take shelter during away games to avoid violence in the streets.
Of course, the season is decided in the last series against a rival team.
Former Associated Press journalist and filmmaker Andrew Glazer said he came up with the idea for this project after reading a reference to the team in a 2018 article in the New Yorker magazine about singer Alejandro Escovedo. The team gave him access to the players during the 2019 season while Glazer also documented news from the border.
“I wanted the viewer to be able to see what I saw,” Glazer said. “I didn’t want to change anyone’s mind but to share the truth.”