As he jogs along a beach in the coastalcity of San Arturo Cipriano Gómez notices a young vagabond leap across a jetty and he senses, immediately, “Now there’s a real athlete.” The young man, Alejandro López, denies that he plays baseball but accepts the temporary work that Cipriano offers him.
The young man’s athletic ability doesn’t stay hidden long. Cipriano introduces him to the Zancudos, San Arturo’s basement dwelling baseball team, and Alejandro becomes an instant catalyst, leading them to victories over rivals they’ve seldom beaten before. He also becomes the focus of interest for a bevy of the town’s teenaged girls, whose attentions both thrill and intimidate the young immigrant. Reluctantly he admits that he left his native Cuba to sign a professional baseball contract but deserted after failing to compete successfully against older and more experienced athletes.
Alejandro is the novel’s unifying character and the protagonist of the between chapter breaks. The reader experiences the Mexican ambiente, “baseball the way it should be played!” and Alejandro’s transformation from a shy and irresolute
teenager to a take-charge young adult through the eyes of the Zancudo’s nine
principal baseball team members. Along the way the reader meets wives and lovers, rambunctious opponents, a harem of hefty hula-dancing aficionados,
American tourists and professional baseball scouts.
As the Zancudos continue to win enough games to keep them eligible for the league playoffs, Alejandro’s teammates and the team’s sponsor manipulate his legality as an immigrant and his eligibility as a performer. The youngster has aroused the interest of Major League scouts, some of whom suspect that he is the "Jaime López" who deserted the Yucatán Leones. Whether he can remain with the team as the Zancudos go into the playoffs becomes a controversial issue.
Like all ballplayers, the members of the Zancudos tease, tell stories and exaggerate both their accomplishments and their shortcomings. They celebrate every win--and every defeat--with beer, carne asada and practical jokes and they take care of each other with salty rough-and-tumble affection.
The Zancudos' participation in the national semi-pro playoffs in Tijuana brings the novel to a close. Alejandro is forced to choose between a professional contract to play in the United States and staying with the team. His decision and the responses of his teammates provide a dramatic climax to an entertaining and vivid look at baseball, at Mexico, and at how human relationships struggle and prosper
Running Out The Hurt paints a vivid picture of the colorful world of Latin
American baseball. The story begins with a Cuban player, drafted by Yucatan in
the Mexican professional league, who decides his younger brother has more
natural talent and should take the opportunity in his place. Fifteen year old
Alejandro Lopez posing as his older brother is not mature enough to play at the
professional level and suffers “the hurt” of failure and bringing shame to his
family. He runs away to hide in the small coastal town of San Arturo. Like most small towns, San Arturo prizes its amateur
baseball team, a collection of colorful players all of whom work to support
their families but live to play baseball. The team adopts him as one of their
family, finds work and lodging for him, immerses him in female admirers, even
arranges a false Mexican identity for him. In return, Alejandro transforms the
team from perennial losers to league contenders with both his outfield play and
pitching. It is a realistic story with losses as well as wins, a story of
amateurs with dreams of what might have been and the ability to nurture a boy
with the talent to live their dream.