SAN ANTONIO – South Texas did not get much of a baseball season in 2020. A lot of stadiums remained empty, with very few exceptions, as America’s pastime was benched thanks to COVID-19 fears.
Little did we know that one South Texas team was the focus of a new feature that’s a real eye-opener.
On Friday at 8 p.m. CST, Showtime will debut a must-see, two-hour documentary titled, “Bad Hombres,” which focuses on the 2019 season of the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos of the Mexican Baseball League, a Triple-A club in the Minor League Baseball system. The Tecolotes play home games both in Laredo and across the border in Nuevo Laredo.
Bad Hombres explores the contentious U.S.-Mexico border relations through the lens of the world's only binational baseball team.— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) October 6, 2020
Documentary premieres Friday, Oct. 16 at 9PM ET on Showtime. pic.twitter.com/9b0VT9tQWa
“What sparked my interest [in this documentary] was everything being said out of Washington and particularly by our President in the 2016 election and after that, painting his justification for building the wall," said Andrew Glazer, who produced and directed Showtime’s latest documentary.
“What I wanted to do with this film was bring people to the area with a good story, with a team that is extremely unique in that they play home games on both sides of the border and let the people who are watching it come to their own conclusions,” Glazer said in an interview with KSAT 12 Sports. “I wanted to show that it is very different than how the President was portraying the border region.”
Glazer is a veteran award-winning journalist who has worked on programs such as “Dirty Money,” Dan Rather Reports and Vice News.
“I wanted to do my job as a journalist to show that the threat (President Donald Trump) was talking about was not as he was describing it,” Glazer said.
Baseball on the border
In the middle of polarizing politics around immigration lies a minor league baseball team trying to play out a complete season, which was in jeopardy in 2019 when President Trump threatened to close the southern border.
Tonight, @SHOsports debuts "Bad Hombres" which focuses on minor league baseball and Texas-Mexico border politics. #KSATsports @andrewglazer @StephenEspinoza #BadHombres— KSAT 12 Sports (@InstantReplaySA) October 16, 2020
Story: https://t.co/mRN1W5S0f1 pic.twitter.com/WLkV2csFTj
“They were really fun to be around and they had a lot of character and they had a great team identity; it was defined by the fact that they crossed the border so regularly," Glazer said.
The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos are the only baseball team in the world that plays home games in the United States and Mexico. Even though they are right across the border from each other, the atmosphere is completely different and in some sense, even more entertaining than American baseball.
“I love the atmosphere and energy that they bring in Nuevo Laredo and it gets you going,” said Juan Martinez, the second baseman of the Tecolotes and substitute high school teacher in Bakersfield, California. “You hear the music, you can smell what they’re grilling during the game. You don’t realize how fun a baseball game can be until you go down to Mexico and check one out. It’s a party for three hours. It’s just a different game down there. They are very passionate about their teams in Mexico.”
It’s no secret that minor league baseball players don’t have wealthy contracts and, as a result, do not make a lot of money playing the sport they love. On the border, players from the Tecolotes option to live in Nuevo Laredo to save money; living in Laredo during the season costs too much and drains the wallets of the ballplayers even faster.
“I’ve played 10 years in the minor leagues, so I know how it is not having a car,” Martinez said in an interview with KSAT. “Luckily, the Tecos help us out, taking us to the stadiums on both sides. We also help each other out. The community around Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are pretty united; it feels the same and it feels like a big family.”
Cartel threats in Nuevo Laredo
Showtime’s two-hour documentary sheds light on the unheard voices from the Texas-Mexico border region. One of the inescapable visuals is the cartel violence in Nuevo Laredo that threatens both the baseball team and the film crew. The violence escalates throughout the season, highlighted by the ballplayers discussing umpires held hostage for 15 hours after being mistaken for cartel members from Sinaloa, lookouts stopping players outside their homes going to a game and the brief airing of dead bodies hanging off a bridge.
KSAT 12 Sports got early access to @SHOsports new documentary that focuses on border politics and baseball.— KSAT 12 Sports (@InstantReplaySA) October 16, 2020
Story: https://t.co/viEHZKaSbb . . #KSATsports @LaredosTecos @StephenEspinoza #BadHombres pic.twitter.com/atQRROs6mf
“Mexico is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist,” Glazer said. “The violence comes and goes; it’s not always at a 10. Near the end of filming in August of 2019, there was an increase danger because the state police were cracking down and there was street-level violence.”
The cartel that’s in that area starting driving around pickup trucks with their stamp right on the side and guys with guns in the back in daylight hours to show they can do that. One of the last days of filming the crew came across that and they quickly bolted out of there; there was no way to continue filming.”
Martinez, the second baseman, said he’s thought about quitting because of the cartel violence, “but I love playing the game so much. I know it’s a little risky at times but I’ll take that risk.”
Listen, not just hear
While the debates on the various topics along the border are far from over, Glazer and Martinez hope the documentary gets people talking and more importantly, listening to one another for solutions.
“No one wants to be shouted at anymore,” said Glazer. “With the help of a good story and great characters that we really care about, bring people who don’t live right there on the border along for the ride. For those who do live there, I hope that they can at least get a better idea, maybe learn something from their neighbors, either down the street or across the river because we are not talking to each other enough and when we do, it’s often high volume.”
Martinez added, “Sometimes I wish people in the United States got along a little bit better. I think we are doing a pretty bad job of that right now. Everyone is separated, it’s neighbor against neighbor. Laredo and Nuevo Laredo come united for one team. We are from both cities and the fans come together to cheer for us. Even though one is in Mexico and one in the United States, it feels like one team.”
“Bad Hombres” debuts Friday at 8 p.m. central time and can be viewed on Showtime and their numerous streaming platforms.
Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 Sports for over 17 years and is an award-winning sports producer. To submit story ideas, email email@example.com