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Lou & The Trece - Baseball Stories, Part 1

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, June 9, 2007 05:36pm | Post a Comment
I grew up in the seventies and early eighties in Gardena, Ca, a town in the South Bay sandwiched between the hoods of South L.A. on the north and east and the suburbs of Torrance on the west and south. The Mexican gang in my neighborhood growing up was GX13 (Gardena Trece). Most people in the city either feared or loathed GX13. They would graffiti the town overnight with names straight out of a Luis Rodriguez novel. There was Killer, Joker, Puppet, Tiny, names taken out of a Cholo 101 handbook. The local paper would write about Gardena’s gang epidemic and everyone in our small town would get scared. The truth was a lot of these guys in GX13 were young guys who just liked to party and were about as dangerous as puppies. But there were a few snappers in the bunch that were very dangerous and would turn on you in a second. When you hung out with those guys, you always had to keep your guard up.

At the age of twelve, I started to hang out with some of the little brothers of some of the older gangsters. Then the gangsters started to hang out with us at the park. They always seemed to be having a good time and they were proud of who they were. They spoke neither full Spanish nor English, just a concoction of the two languages mixed together adding slang that they picked up from relatives and other vatos. They had Mexican iconic tattoos and drove primered lowriders, ready for the next step into their car’s evolution into lowriderism. As tempting as it was to join that life, my friends and I were intercepted by a man named Louis Marchese. Lou, as we called him, was one of the original members of GX13 when it was a car club in the fifties. It was full of vato locos that smoked marijuana openly in a time before the hippies made it social. He got out of that life when he had a son, who was my age and also playing baseball on our team. Lou spent several years coaching us in little league and playing ball with us every day during the summer in order to deter us from getting into trouble. After long hours of catching and batting practice, the last thing I wanted to do was run around town with the gangsters. I was too beat.

After a few years I stopped playing baseball. I wasn’t good enough despite practicing endlessly. I spent entire games warming up the bench and it just wasn’t much fun. Even when we won the city championship, I spent all but one inning on the bench. I had my mandatory at-bat that was required by little league rules and was sent to the outfield for the last inning. As I was in the outfield, I glanced over to some Cholos leaning up against a car, drinking in the parking lot and checking out the game. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I didn’t end up like them.” But once the last out was recorded and everyone was celebrating, I had an empty feeling inside of me. I really hadn’t contributed much to the season other than catching hours of batting practice and riding the pine of the bench. It was time to go elsewhere, do something new. So, when it was time to start the new season, I told Lou that my parents wanted me to find a job and that I couldn’t play baseball anymore. The truth was that I had discovered music and I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Lou tried to convince me to stay on the team, however, not for my baseball ability but to keep me out of trouble. I thanked him but I told him that I would not rejoin the team. He wished me luck and that was the end of baseball for me.

I thought of Lou because I was reading a bulletin from the church I used to go to. My sister still lives in Gardena and still attends the church with her children. I was reading the prayer section, the section that lists those who are critically ill, and Lou happen to be one of the people on it. It was then that the sad reality hit me that this man whose sole purpose in life was to keep me and several other boys out of trouble may no longer be with us. I don’t know if he ever knew how much he changed my life by being a deterrent when I was in real need of one. It wasn’t like those stories you see on ESPN, the ones that show a gifted athlete that makes it out of the ghetto and into the pros thanks to the help of a little league coach. Lou was a connector, one that helped us along the way. He might have not helped spawn a major pro, but I know he kept myself and others like me from getting into trouble.

Relevant Tags

Gardena (3), Luis Rodriguez (2), Lowriders (2)