Crossing the Border: Baseball in Mexico
My husband Corey is playing for a team in Mexico this season, the Tijuana Toros. This is his first year with the team so prior to the start of the season we really had no idea what to expect. During spring training, he talked with a few guys who played for the team last year and they said a lot of the “imports” live in the San Diego area and just cross the border everyday for the games. WHAT? Thinking about that scenario in my head was a total cluster.
Last year Corey played in Oklahoma City and we lived so close to the stadium I could basically see the scoreboard from our apartment. Baseball life is tough...add a kid in the mix, it gets tougher…add 2 kids in the mix, and you basically live off prayer and nice strangers for help. So, the thought of having to cross the border with 2 kids by myself, everyday (if we ever wanted to see dad) sounded terrible. Not to mention the games are at 7:30 pm and nothing ever happens on time in Mexico.
Any who, living in southern California vs Tijuana.. meh no brainer. We were told that getting a “global entry” pass was essential. So we did. It was a bit of a process and we had to fork over some cash, but the cards are good for 5 or 7 years, I believe. Don’t quote me. So we all had to apply and complete interviews and background checks before we were issued a card. We also had to enroll our car (which is still not actually enrolled because vehicles are on a 3-4 month waiting list). Thankfully, after our interviews we were issued our cards pretty quick.
The global entry card is basically similar to the fast track pass at Disney World. You get to skip the long line. With this card you are now considered a “trusted traveler”. The other night the READY lane to cross the border was approximately 2-3 hours long. The SENTRI/GLOBAL lane… 5-10 minutes. WORTH EVERY PENNY.
A Few Ways To Cross.
So, you can walk or you can drive. Yep, walk. In my head, and prior to actually walking across the border, I thought this was going to be crazy. It actually isn’t. Walking across the border is similar to customs at an airport. You just get out your passport/global entry card… wait in the line (which is usually WAY shorter than the driving lanes) and walk up to the designated booths. Then they ask you where you’ve been and if you’re bringing anything back.. ya di ya di ya di.. and then you walk to the other side. Then, once you get to the other side, you can catch an uber or get somebody to pick ya up.
Obviously, you can also drive across the border, and there are 3 basic lines when driving: STANDARD, READY, & SENTRI. Lately, the kids and I have been riding the team van with their driver, JC, because it is now officially summer and traffic is nuts. JC comes to Cali everyday to picl up the guys who live here and then drives them to the game. Then he turns right back around and will come back for family if he needs. He is the nicest man and we are so thankful for him. Remember, our car still does not have SENTRI and the team van does… so it’s faster to ride the van.
The STANDARD lane is for those who don’t have passports; I believe they just show their birth certificates. That line is always ridiculously long. Then there is the READY lane. We use this lane when we drive ourselves. At the beginning of season this lane wasn’t too bad (15-30mins wait usually), but now that it’s summer it is always backed up… at all hours. Then there is the SENTRI lane for those with global entry passes. Really hoping our car gets approved soon. It has almost been 4 months since we applied so should be any day.
The Crossing Chaos.
Alrighty… so going into Mexico is easy usually. Sometimes the lines are long going in but they move fairly quick. Fridays are the worst for going into Mexico, and Sundays are the worst for coming back into the states. Don’t ask me why. But overall, coming back into the US is the harder part. Going in they only stop and search probably every 10th car or so, or if you drive a big truck/van, but coming each car gets stopped and they ask lots of questions and ya di ya di ya. Sometimes we drive ourselves to a game. We live 13 miles from the field. But 13 miles can take 25 minutes or it can take 1.5 hours. YOU NEVER KNOW. I’ve learned to have a bit more patience with this as the season has gone on. On our way home, Corey was driving and he accidentally got in the wrong lane. He got in the STANDARD lane -no bueno. We tried to turn around but there was basically zero chance of that. Neither of us are really into breaking laws in Mexico. We have seen a few border patrol officers chase a couple guys down before. Anyways, we could see the lane we were supposed to be in on the right, and there was basically nobody in it. We had to sit and wear a solid 1.5 hour wait because we can’t read Spanish signs. Good thing the kids had fallen asleep- Sheesh.
So, while waiting in the line coming back into the US, you see all kinds of stuff. People selling flowers, candy, tacos, puppies (yes puppies… they walk around with them in between cars and try to get you to roll down your window and then just put them in your lap). You can also get carwashes while you wait. If we’re being honest, they basically wipe your dirty car with a dirty rag so it’s not the greatest, buuut it’s worth 10 pesos I guess. The past few times we were coming back home after a game, we saw a little band set up between the lanes. Just playing the guitar and jammin’ out. Mind you.. every time we come back across the border it is usually around 11/11:30pm. Also, little kids shorter than the hood of your car are weaving in and out asking people for money. Corey got sucked in one time. He rolled his window down to give the little dude some pesos meanwhile an older man walked up behind him.. Corey assumed it was his dad of course so he handed the older guy 100 pesos ($5 ish). Then the older guy walked off and the little kid was still standing there. Corey was like… “Ugh, I gave it to your dad” (in Spanish) and the kid said, “That wasn’t my dad, I don’t know him” (also in Spanish). Cool. Now down another 100 pesos. I don’t know Spanish, by the way, but Corey knows a decent amount.
Another reason we’ve been riding the team van more often, as I mentioned above, is for our safety. Parts of this country are very poor and actual jobs are scarce, so I assume people just feel the need to do ANYTHING & EVERYTHING to help provide for their families whether it means stealing or hurting others along the way.
There have been a few incidents with Corey’s teammates while traveling to the games. One guy got into a fender bender while in Mexico and pulled over, then got robbed because he wanted to call the police (you know, because that’s what you do when you get into an accident). Also, another teammate had just crossed the border and was driving over this ramp when a guy ran across the street and threw a large rock at his windshield and shattered it. I guess this is a thing they do to get you to stop so they can rob you or steal your car. Scary stuff. I mean you never think things like this will happen to you until they do.
Just to note, I have never felt unsafe while driving or being in Mexico. Everyone has been more than nice and accommodating to my kids, and myself; they all love Miller’s blonde curls and Linden’s “rojo” hair. BUT you just never know and you can never be too careful (thanks mom). Before having kids, I was super naive… thinking nothing bad would/could ever happen to me. Now, I just want to make certain I am putting my kids safety above all else. That goes for here in the US and in Mexico, too.
So the next time you need to cross the border into Mexico, remember:
- brush up on your Spanish (ya know, to make sure you’re giving the kid’s father the money)
- go with a group and be SAFE
- get that golden global entry card (or plan on walking)
- NOT to call the police if you get in a wreck
- have patience (if you don’t get that golden global entry card or get in the wrong lane)
- get the border wait app—mentally prepare for the wait
- Optional: sneak a margarita to join you while you wait
Now.. off to Mexico we go 🙂
UPDATE: Finally got the SENTRI pass for our car! WOOHOO. We have been driving ourselves most of the time now instead of riding with JC because it is just a little easier with the kids and the carseat situation… but I do have a couple other wives ride with me! We travel in groups. As for lines, school started back up so the border lines haven’t been as bad, but still sometimes a 45min to 1hr waits for driving across unless you have that golden ticket. 🙂