Baseball is America’s favorite pastime, as the saying goes. And tonight with game 1 of the World Series, which pits the New York Yankees against the Philadelphia Phillies, fans and teams alike will wind up for a nearly a week and a half of baseball mania. We wanted to know what another baseball-crazed nation, the Dominican Republic, thinks of the sport, so we asked Nelson Figueroa, Santo Domingo project coordinator, to weigh in on the topic.
Baseball in the Dominican Republic is considered a national entertainment. This is the sport that gathers all levels of society. Pretty much life in the DR flows around baseball and the teams of the Dominican Baseball League. As a matter of fact, we have a saying here. Dominicans talk about two things: the ìballitic,î or baseball and politics.
The children generally like to wear the colors of their favorite team. There is no place in which people donít talk about who is or isnít the best player. Baseball makes the front page of the newspaper all the time. Even politicians use baseball terms in their political material.
Everyday language uses baseball terms. For example, when a person does something illegal, people say, ìHe/she batted a foul.î In contrast, when a person does something really good people say, ìHe/she hit a home run through the 411.î The number ì411î is the measurement through the center field of the largest stadium in the country.
It starts early
In general, the life of Dominicans flows around this sport, and children start playing it at a young age.
We could probably say that children start playing at about age five, but they begin learning the basics when they take their first steps. In fact, one of their very first gifts is a plastic baseball bat and ball. Children play in parks, streets, their backyards and on organized leagues.
The organized league starts with the mini league at age 5 to 7. The organized leagues are for boys only. Girls usually play informally.
Improvising the equipment
Children usually play baseball in the streets. They use juice or milk cartons as mitts by flattening them and making a horizontal opening for the finger, similar to regular baseball mitts. Baseball bats are made with broomsticks or a piece of wood carved to the shape of a bat.
Many times the balls are rubber balls sold locally, but most of the time they are made by wrapping a small rock with paper and holding it with tape. Once that is done, they put the ball inside of a sock to form the ball.
Children use anything available for the bases: electric posts, trash, rocks, whatever wonít blow away. Sometimes they paint bases on the floor with paint or charcoal.
A famous legacy
The most popular baseball player in the Dominican Republic is Juan Marichal, the only Dominican player in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the U.S.
The Professional Baseball League of the Dominican Republic is the major league, and the season starts in October. Most Dominican baseball players in the U.S. come from this league. At the same time, players from other countries are brought here as support.
For some time, the town of San Pedro de Macoris turned out many professional baseball players. I donít know the reason why so many baseball players came from this town. Nowadays, there are players from all over the countryófamous players such as Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Miguel Tejada, Placido Polanco, Alex RodrÌguez, JosÈ Reyes, Omar Minaya (general manager for the New York Mets), Robinson Cano, and others.
Of course, one of the dreams of our boys and their families is for them to become a professional baseball player. It is a way out of poverty
CFCAís Santo Domingo project does not usually organize baseball games as recreation because children usually play it in their own communities.
Check back tomorrow to read an interview between Nelson and Samuel, a 17-year-old sponsored youth from Santo Domingo.