By 3:30 a.m. the games had finished, and it was time to eat. Muslims call this meal before dawn suhoor. Outside in the parking lot, aromas of the traditional Pakistani dishes surrounded the group of men who were forming a line. They eyeballed the food getting unloaded from the navy-blue GMC Terrain as it was placed on a plastic white table, eager to dig in.
The steam from the warm basmati rice rose into the cool air as the men piled their plates with biryani, rice cooked with chicken, and chana masala, chickpeas prepared in a spicy tomato sauce.
Soon after, the men gathered their belongings and walked slowly to their cars. Some planned to go to a nearby mosque to pray.
By 4:20 a.m., only a few people remained outside the stadium, including Berket and Aayan. They rolled out a blue prayer rug next to a 10-foot-tall gold statue of a man throwing a baseball.
They took off their shoes and stood close to each other on the carpet and faced the direction of Mecca.
In Pakistan, and other Muslim-majority countries, mosques typically broadcast the call to prayer over loudspeakers. Berket did the next best thing: He began to recite the prayer in Arabic. His delivery was melismatic, making the prayer sound musical.
Nearby, lights illuminated the entrance to the stadium, revealing gold letters bolted on the concrete: "City of West Covina. Big League Dreams." The pair kneeled on the ground and buried their heads into their hands. As they continued to pray, birds chirped in the background, signaling the start of a new day.
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