Baseball is the Dominican Republic’s favorite sport. For Dominicans, “pelota”–as we call it here–is more than a sport. It’s a limitless passion, a love for country and unity. For the young generation, baseball also symbolizes a dream and hope for a better future–with the possibility of becoming one of the world’s legendary Dominican baseball players. After all, it worked for Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz, Robinson Canó, José Reyes, Juan Marichal and Bartolo Colón, among numerous others.
Aside from tracking their favorite players during the Major League Baseball (MLB) games, each Dominican has a favorite team that he or she cheers on during the Dominican baseball season. Baseball season in the DR runs from mid-October through late January, featuring six teams competing at major professional baseball stadiums around the country. If you are visiting during these months, add this unique experience to your list–going to a Dominican “juego de pelota” is about the game, but it’s also a lively party. For schedule, tickets and prices, and other information visit the official website of the Dominican Baseball League.
Origin & History
How exactly did pelota come to be so big in the DR?
There are varying opinions on the exact date that baseball was introduced in the Dominican Republic. Some say Cuban brothers Ignacio and Ubaldo Alomá were first to introduce the sport in September 1886, in San Pedro de Macorís. Others say Cubans living in the DR were behind it dating back to 1894 and 1896, with the first teams known as Ozama and Cauto. A third version says the official start date was September 25, 1886, when some Cuban sailors gave a demonstration of the game on a plot of land near the port city of San Pedro de Macorís, and then left behind the bats and balls they had used. Last but not least, a theory exists that the Americans introduced the sport during the first US occupation of 1916.
Either way, amateur baseball began to develop during the 1940s during tournaments held in honor of dictator Rafael Trujillo. He was instrumental in building the first baseball stadium in 1946–called Estadio Trujillo, and later renamed Estadio Quisqueya.
Organized and professional Dominican baseball began in 1955 with the creation of the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League (LIDOM), and joining the MLB. The first president of Dominican Baseball League was Dr. Hipólito Herrera Billini. In 1956, the first professional baseball game took place at night at the newly built Quisqueya Stadium, also known as the Juan Marichal Stadium, in honor of the great Dominican pitcher who played in the MLB.
Teams & Stadiums
The Dominican Professional Baseball League is made up of six principal teams: Tigres del Licey, Estrellas Orientales, Leones del Escogido, Águilas Cibaeñas, Toros del Este, and Gigantes del Cibao.
With the highest contribution of professional players to the MLB than any other country in the world, the Dominican Republic’s baseball athletes turned stars are numerous. Over the years, more than 65 players have been selected as MLB All-Stars, including Manny Ramirez, Juan Marichal, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Pedro Martínez, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Tejada, Robinson Cano, and Tony Fernández.
DR baseball’s greatest pride are its two players inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Juan Marichal–San Francisco Giants pitcher–in 1983, and Pedro Martínez, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, in 2015.