History of Tijuana Jai Alai
DAVID: Aldo, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. How would you describe your 51 years with the jai alai.
ALDO: You are very welcomed. My 51 years with this establishment have been more than memorable. I have met some of the most interesting people and seen some very famous faces here. It is always nice to have people come in and recognize me from previous visits.
D: Which famous faces have you seen here?
A: I have met with some very famous american icons. Some include actor Mickey Rooney, Former San Diego Padre Dave Winfield, Former "Leave it to Beaver" star Tony Dow, "The Duke" John Wayne, Clark Gable, Victor Maturi, Jack Palance to name a few.
D: Who in your mind is the best player you have ever seen?
A: A player by the name of Guillermo Amochastegui back in the early 50's. This man had it all. He had the hardest back hand that I have ever seen, he could score on the rebote, even though he never dove. Words cannot describe Gullermo's game.
D: Who do you think is the best player that has played in Tijuana in recent memory?
A: That is a tough question. There have been many great players here recently. Dania back courter Felix is right up there. He played here in 1990-1991. He had one of the hardest and well placed right sides tat I have ever seen. He was a great partner for any front courter, very dependable. Another player that comes to mind is another Dania back court, Yannel (88-89 and 92-97). Yannel, to me, was an average singles player, but one of the best doubles player I have ever seen. He is not a very flashy player, no big right side power, but he was like a vacuum when he caught. He was fundamental, setting up his front court to finish points. But the player I think that stands out as the best player to have played here in recent memory is Milford front court Zabala (1989). Zabala was smart, strong, dominant. He had an incredible stint here, posting close to a .300 win percentage, and approximately a .650 in the money. He was very impressive.
D: Who was the best player manager in Tijuana history?
A: Alberdi, no doubt about it. He was a firm man, emphasizing discipline at all times. He was also a " players" manager, and by that i mean that the players loved him, and played their hearts out for him night after night. He was a great professor of the game, always teaching even the oldest dogs new tricks.
D: Tell me about the fire in 1956?
A: Sad, sad day. I had felt that a part of me had died. My loyalty for this building, for the game was just as strong then as it is now. I thought it was all over. But when I saw the strength and courage of Mariano Escobedo Sr., I knew that this building would be as good as new.
D: Tell me about Mariano Escobedo Sr.?
A: Mr. Escobedo was a man of vision, strength, courage, dedication, hard working, ambitious, Mariano was a fighter. He had a passion for this sport that I had never seen before. He made jai alai in Tijuana possible. Hopefully, someone like him can take over the jai alai again.
D: What do you think was Tijuana jai alai's highest point?
A:From day one in 1947 'til about the late 60's. During all of those years, Tijuana jai alai was the best show in the country. The jackpots were unreal. The crowds were always a capacity and the noise was deafening. What I wouldn't give to have those days back. The were incredible.
D: What year do you think Tijuana had its best roster?
A:In 1965, Tijuana had an incredible roster with players such as the Guara brothers, Urcola brothers, Echeverria, "the big Cuban" Frias, "Chato" Larrinaga, and their players manager was Pedro Garate.
D: With players like Zada, Beto, Gallardo, Hector, Valdez, who do you think was/is the best local jai alai player to come out of Tijuana?
A:With out a doubt, Valdez. Juan Valdez was an amazing player. He had a very strong wrist, he was tall standing at about 6'1, he had a great fore hand rebote, and he was smart and patient. He had an unusual combination of size and finesse.
D: Who do you think is Tijuana's best prospect right now?
A: That is tough. There are many good prospects here. Felipe Osuna (Felipe, age 25) is a very solid and strong back courter with lots of tools and experience. He turned pro in 1988, yet he is still only 25! Felipe has a very hard right and left, and the ability to turn the most difficult catch in to an offensive shot. Manuel Ramirez (Manuel, 19) could be a good front man if he set his mind to it, but he still needs to learn a lot about character. Manuel does poses a good costado and good catching ability, and his style is very smooth. I think that David Perez (Armenta, 21) will one day be great. The kid has a lot of tools, very raw tools. The kid has the heart of a lion, and the ability and desire to help him become one of Tijuana's best players. Armenta has a good costado that he can trow in many different directions, one of the best fore hand rebotes of recent memory, and he has no fear. That I think is what gives him the edge over all the other young players here.
D: Tell me about Caliente. How would you describe their performance running the fronton during their tenure from 1992 to 1998?
A: They could have done a better job with the fronton. They did do a good job of bringing in many good young prospects that later turned out to be great players. Beitia (Dania 93-present) was one, Echave (Dania 93-96), Azpiri and Aspillaga (Orlando 93-present), Enrique, Chauderon, Iriondo,( Tampa 95-98 and Ocala-Ft. Pierce 98-present) and Barrena (Tampa 95-96, Miami 97-98 and Ocala 98-present). To me though, it seems as if they gave up on jai alai all of a sudden.
D: What do you think the future has in store for Tijuana jai alai?
A:The future seems dim. There doesn't seem to be much to look forward to except for history to repeat itself.
D:When do you plan to retire?
A: Probably in the year 2020 or on the second coming of Christ. But then
again, I think working in the year 2020 is asking too much :)