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Chasing baseball(s) in the Dominican Republic


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NY Times has a piece about the lure of baseball in the island country. The writer decided to check out baseball stadia, and received a tour of the country's leading baseball academy.

 

There's also a discussion about how the academy system works. Most (all?) US major league teams have a presence

 

 

 

 

I decided to adopt a team in the Dominican’s winter league, which begins every October, then peaks with a round robin playoff in January. (Winner goes to the Caribbean Series, in February, to compete against Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela.) I wanted a winner, and Santiago’s 79-year-old Águilas Cibaeñas, or Eagles of Cibao, had the high-profile names to go with gaudy statistics. Their cleanup hitter was Manny Ramirez, the former Red Sox postseason hero. The sure-handed Jonathan Villar of the Houston Astros played shortstop; Frank Batista, now a Chicago Cubs pitching prospect, was their ace. They played at the Estadio Cibao, the island’s biggest stadium, an 18,000-capacity, old-school ballpark. Near our seats along the first-base line (1,000 pesos apiece, or about $21 at 43 pesos to the dollar), college-age youths filled a section in their bright-yellow Águilas gear, pounding on snare drums, a marching band without the marching. Children threw candy to the players, who snagged it with their gloves and nodded their thanks. The elaborate center-field scoreboard wasn’t working, perhaps owing to a huge stadium fire the previous month, and it was only by keeping score in a small notebook that I was able to follow the game. I silently befriended an older gentleman in our row by flashing fingers to confirm runs and outs.

 

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