There is only one binational baseball team in the world.
The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos, a triple-A Mexican League club, plays home games on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The current political climate surrounding border control has presented unique challenges for the players.
Philadelphia native Andrew Glazer, an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker, highlighted the 2019 season of the Tecolotes (whose full name means Owls of the Two Laredos) amid the political climate. The film, Bad Hombres, premiered Friday on Showtime.
“I wanted to just take viewers by the hand, bring them to this place and show them what it’s like, so they can see and come to their own conclusions,” Glazer said.
Glazer and his film crew divided their time between the team’s neighboring cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
While Nuevo Laredo and Laredo are split at the border, Glazer highlighted the similarities as much as the differences.
“It’s not a hard line between Mexico and the U.S.,” Glazer said. “Culturally, musically, and with food ... it’s a big blur.”
Home games in Mexico are held at Parque la Junta, and games in the United States take place at Uni-Trade Stadium. Players ride the bus about five minutes to the border and walk across it for about 15 minutes because that is faster than stopping at the checkpoint.
One of the players featured is former Phillies All-Star outfielder Domonic Brown, who played in Philadelphia from 2010-15. He played for the Tecolotes in 2018 and ’19.
“I fell in love with the culture,” Brown said. “Going over there and experiencing that on a daily basis, I never had that feeling going to the ballpark every day like we had to come together.”
The film highlights the everyday grind for the players during the sometimes-tense conversations about the border wall.
Another issue described is the danger that comes with playing in Mexico. At one point in the film, a player mentioned that members of a drug cartel captured some umpires before realizing it was a mistake.
Brown, a Florida native, said the experience put things in perspective for him.
“There were a couple times where we heard some gunshots,” Brown said. “Sometimes we would be in the clubhouse, and they would say somebody just got shot at or something. It was that close to us.”
But it wasn’t all bad. The film shows Brown and his teammates' tight bond. Spanish became a second language for Brown, who at first knew only how to order chicken and steak tacos in Spanish before getting more conversant months later.
When playing in Texas, the atmosphere was a little more relaxed. In Nuevo Laredo, Brown said, opposing teams didn’t want to play there and deal with the raucous and passionate crowds.
“You get taken care of much better over there [in Mexico] than you do over here,” Brown said. “I tip my hat to the Phillies because they were great. But being over there, they make you feel like a king. They’ll give you the shirts off their back.”
Highlighting this film was right up Glazer’s alley. While at Vice News, he was involved in the production of several long-form international and investigative reports.
He initially learned Spanish at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. He spent his junior year in high school teaching English at a secondary school in Central Mexico.
“Not only did that help me improve my Spanish a lot, it kind of whet my appetite for a life of travel, exploration, and meeting people around the world,” Glazer said.
President Donald Trump appears throughout the film making statements about border control, Hispanic people, and the wall. He famously called some Mexican immigrants “bad hombres.” Glazer’s experience with Hispanic people was more positive than some of Trump’s statements, and that played a role in Glazer pitching the idea of Bad Hombres 18 months ago.
“At the time, what I knew of the people that were trying to cross in were families with young children, sometimes unaccompanied minors, who were escaping horrible violence in Central America and Mexico -- and doing it in a way that international law allows, which is coming to the U.S. and looking for asylum.”