Baseball is a sport loved and practiced by thousands of people worldwide.
In the late 19th century, it got a significant boost in the Caribbean.
It is the official sport of the Dominican Republic, first established with the Ozama league. The game attracted so much attention that its fan base grew exponentially, perhaps because it served as an escape from the island’s political and economic crises.
Dominican players started to earn international renown at the beginning of the 20th century. Pitcher Baldomero Ureña (Mero) was the first Dominican player to play in the U.S. Major Leagues, with the Allentown Dukes.
“It is the official sport of that Caribbean country,” said Roberto Rojas, a Mexican baseball coach. “It arrived at the end of the 19th century, and shortly after that, became the most popular one. As soon as the world saw the first Dominican player in the Major Leagues, different countries wanted Dominican players for themselves.”
Many Dominican baseball players became part of foreign leagues, especially in Puerto Rico and Venezuela. It was not a unilateral trade, as the Dominican Republic began to receive both Cuban and Puerto Rican players participating in its national league.
Thus, the ‘Luxury Championship’ started in 1929, when the players’ quantity and quality rose massively, due to the importation of players for the National Series. After that, it took seven long years before there was a similar series.
The dictator Rafael Trujillo fought to glorify the sport. He fielded his own baseball team in 1937. He recruited the best players from Santo Domingo’s ball clubs, then hired Negro Leagues star pitcher Satchel Paige to recruit some of his colleagues. Trujillo spared no expense, which meant, the country was left without a professional baseball league for 14 years, due to the enormous economic investment.
The national championships relaunched in the 1950s, boosting many Dominican players’ debut in the U.S. major leagues.
Nowadays, hundreds of players have been parts of Major League Baseball, such as Juan Marichal. He managed to enter the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Other lauded Dominicans were Felipe Rojas Alou, and Tony Peña, due to their excellent team management. These and many other players have won awards for their incredible performance and development.
“For what I understand, baseball was something massive for the Dominicans of that time, and from there, it expanded to the rest of the Caribbean countries and then, to the rest of the Americas,” said Aarón Rivas, an amateur Mexican player. “Right now, baseball is still sensational for those, like myself, who aspire to one day reaching the major leagues.”
The Dominican Republic today is a fertile field of intense training maintained by the primary teams of America’s Major League Baseball, such as the Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Kansas Royals, and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, the latter a member of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization.
The Caribbean country became the most sought-out training center by foreigners, training Dominicans, Americans, Mexicans, Panamanians, Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans, who trust the Dominican Republic to keep improving the sport.
(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez, edited by Melanie Slone and Fern Siegel.)
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