Friday, October 28, 2011

Guadalajara Glory Days #6

I'm covering the Pan American Games from Oct. 13 through 31 in Guadalajara, Mexico for the Virgin Islands Daily News. These notebook items and photos were published in the print edition.

They grow up so fast

PUERTA VALLARTA, Mexico – While sitting inside the restaurant at the Presidente Hotel, I met a delightful American woman named Connie who was decked out in the red, white and blue. She later told me that she was a mother of the one of the Team USA softball players.

After some more chatting, I realized the starting second baseman for USA was a former high school standout I used to cover when I worked in Maryland. The coincidence prompted a stern invitation from Connie to cover the team's game on Friday. No RSVP was needed for this party because the softball mom was not going to take no for an answer.

While I've spent the last few years getting used to living on St. Thomas, University of Tennessee junior Lauren Gibson has climbed the ranks of elite college softball champions. She competed in the 2010 NCAA Softball Division I Championship so it was a no-brainer for U.S. coach Ken Eriksen to bring her aboard.

“I actually recruited her out of high school so I know her a little better than you,” the coach joked with me before their 8-0 rout of Argentina.

Not so fast, Eriksen.

I interviewed Gibson, who was a hard-throwing pitcher while in high school, for the first time when she was a freshman. She dominated newspaper headlines and opposing batters for the next four years until she capped off her prep career with a no-hitter in the Maryland Class 4A state championship.

“Wow, it's great to see you,” Gibson said when I methodically hunted her down after the game. “I didn't recognize you because of the hair.”

From Maryland to Mexico, my hair continues to define me.

Puerta Vallarta field trip

I took a quick trip to the coast on Saturday. No, not for a Mexican vacation. Even though I did stay at a resort filled with either retired couples or crazed Spring Breakers. Wait, is it that time of year yet?

Puerta Vallarta was the location for the sailing and triathlon competitions. It was a 20-minute flight from Guadalajara but a 4-hour bus trip through the mountains to get back.

As soon as I stepped onto the bus with my complimentary bag lunch, I knew this would be a unique experience and would probably find its way into the Guadalajara Notebook. Not a single journalist was on the bus and there was only one open seat left.

After a Forrest Gump childhood moment – “you can't sit here” – I found a spot right next to the bathroom and was amazed with how far the seats tilted back. The engine started and then the televisions lit up. Three movies, one after another, all in Spanish.

It didn't matter. The scenery out the window was amazing and the bus driver was not intimidated by the tight, meandering mountain roads. I made it back to Guadalajara after a relaxing nap and just in time to see some boxing.

Feliz cumpleaƱos, Chico

U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Committee secretary general Angel “Chico” Morales is in Guadalajara supporting the USVI athletes and he celebrated a birthday last Thursday. It was a quiet gathering – because I wasn't invited – as he and some friends went out for a special dinner.

Morales was elected to the VIOC Executive Committee as vice president for St. Croix in 1988 and became the committee's secretary general in 1996. He has represented the territory at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea; the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain; and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

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