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First, The Good News

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The tour of the Bacardi rum plant is interesting and fun, and yes, they do give you free samples (that's plural, two samples) before you take a tram and see a bit of the history of how rum is made in Puerto Rico (Bacardi actually started in Cuba, but fortuitously built a plant here in 1958, just before the Castro revolution in Cuba), and there's a nice gift shop where you can buy Bacardi products ar much lower prices than anywhere in the USA, and in addition they sell a "Reserva Especial" which is aged 12 years and not sold anywhere outside of Puerto Rico. That's the one I got -- I mean, why not bring back something special?

Oh, and there's still more good news! The Cardinals and Astros both lost today!

That's about all the good news, though, as the Cubs also lost 3-2 to the Expos (sorry -- I'm using the in-room TV Internet and you can only bring up one browser window at a time, so doing links is virtually impossible).

So, we stand as we did yesterday -- one game behind, now with 16 left. It is emphatically not too late, especially since we now have zero games left against anyone with a winning record, and the Cardinals play the Astros at home this weekend. It rubs against my grain to root for St. Louis, but since they are 2.5 behind, it'd be perfect for them to win 2 of 3.

We decided to upgrade our seats today, and that was a good choice not only for the better view (I have some nice pics I will post when I get back to Chicago), but also because it put us under the overhang of the roof during the 50-minute pregame rain delay. If they had started before it started raining, they would have played through it -- it never really rained very hard, though we never saw any sun either after about noon. Good thing, too, as they had measured the temperature on the artificial turf at 167 degrees. Something I hadn't noticed the previous two days is that they had misters over the dugouts, I suppose to try to cool them off, though why you'd try to cool someone off in the tropics by adding moisture to the air, I have no idea. I've seen these in the desert before, at Phoenix Muni in particular, but never figured they'd use it in the tropics.

The ground crew wasn't that great either; they had to fight with the tarp which nearly blew away a couple times, and the game finally started at 2:25 after the 3 anthems and a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11. Odd to be on this island on this day, thinking about where I was 2 years ago when it happened (at work, watching in horror and shock with everyone else).

The rest of the stadium is much the same as the bleachers; a few additional fried food items and a bit more of a selection of souvenirs, otherwise typical cinderblock 60's architecture. The crowd was very pro-Cubs; people told us that the Cubs had the most fans come here of any of the 7 teams that played the Expos. A lot of it is pro-Sammy Sosa; we sat in front of two men from the Dominican Republic who had a huge "SAMMY" sign. But they are also Cubs fans.

Mark Prior just didn't have it today; he struggled through 5.2 innings, and nearly hit a home run which Endy Chavez turned into a great leaping catch at the wall. After that the offense shut down, so much so that my entire contingent -- Ron, Karen, Trish, Erika and Chris -- decided to head back to the hotel, as they were bored and tired, or so they said.

They missed the huge rally in the 9th, which might have turned out differently if Alex Gonzalez' ball had gone a foot higher; it'd have been a two-run single instead of a double play. But we cannot lament what has gone by.

After the game I hung out at the Plaza las Americas, a huge mall across the street from the stadium; just like any USA mall as far as I could tell, with stores like Gap, Old Navy and Borders. Tried to take the bus back, but it never came, so I flagged down a taxi in the middle of the street (say, that's just what you do here!!) and the taxi driver turned out to be a big baseball fan, loves the Cubs, thought my scorecard was cool, and was impressed that I was going to be at Wrigley Field tomorrow afternoon.

Where indeed I shall be, after a great visit to this "Isla del Encanto", as the license-plate slogan here says (I've been on a quest to find at least one outside-of-PR plate; I did see an Ohio plate on a truck on Monday when we were coming back from El Yunque, but no one else saw it, so they say it doesn't count). Had a wonderful time, despite the two losses, the visit to Hiram Bithorn Stadium was great fun, and my advice to Bud Selig is -- move the team here. One of the reasons they didn't draw that well, in my opinion, is that even though the Expos are a pretty good team, they don't belong to the people here. It'd be way different if they did. There's still a chance they'll play here again in 2004, and I say -- go for it!

Keep hope alive, and see you all back on the mainland tomorrow1