Baseball in the Dominican Republic
The North Coast of the Dominican Republic is a haven for watersports: surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, skimboarding, snorkelling, diving. We have it all in Cabarete. If you’ve seen the Dominicans out on the water, you might be surprised to hear that their national sport is actually baseball.
Beisbol, or more commonly just ‘pelota’, is a beloved sport in the DR. Look out for local games taking place on patches of grass, or more official uniformed matches between Dominican amateur teams.
Baseball is a central part of Dominican culture. Being scouted and signed to a Major League Baseball (MLB) team can be a ticket to a new life in the US for Dominican hopefuls.
These high stakes mean that baseball holds a special place in DR culture. The country is proud to cheer on Dominican talent on a world stage. Some of the best players in the history of the Major League have been Dominican. But the game also represents the need for Dominican national identity to hold its own in the face of the dominant US culture.
Many MLB Dominican players make a point of showcasing their national culture proudly. They pay tribute to their home country and don’t forget their Dominican fans.
Lots of the MLB stars will come home to play winter pelota in the DR, out of gratitude to their home fans. There have been times when major players have refused to give interviews in English, though they speak it well, when in their home country.
It’s important for them to retain pride in DR culture, including speaking the same language as your fans at home.
Fans, in turn, are generally very appreciative of the professional athletes, as they often come from small towns like their own.
It’s a point of resistance to the force of US American culture to ardently support the Dominican players, even if you don’t follow the MLB team they play for. It’s about loyalty to your country and cheering your own. For a lot of Dominicans, this comes before any preference for an MLB team.
If you read the local newspapers, you’ll see the focus on celebrating the success of the Dominican player, rather than getting carried away with American team rivalries.
The DR Professional Baseball League
The Dominican national league is called LIDOM (La LIga Profesional de Béisbol de la Republica DOMinicana). The season starts in mid-October and runs through to mid-January.
The season is split into three stages, and culminates in a head-to-head battle for the national title. To start, the six teams play a schedule of 50 games from mid-October to end-of-December. Then, the top four teams will play another 18 games each from end-of-December to end-of-January.
Finally, the top two teams fight it out in an intense nine-match series that determines who will be the national champions.
The proud winner of the national league will represent the DR in the Caribbean Series (Serie del Caribe), against the top teams from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba.
LIDOM has six teams:
- Tigres del Licey: Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo
- Leones del Escogido: Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo
- Águilas Cibaeñas: Estadio Cibao, Santiago
- Toros del Este: Estadio Francisco Micheli, La Romana
- Gigantes del Cibao: Estadio Julián Javier, San Francisco de Macorís
- Estrellas Orientales: Estadio Tetelo Vargas, San Pedro de Macorís
Tigres del Licey are the oldest team, founded in 1907. The Estrellas Orientales followed in 1911, and the Leones del Escogido came along in 1921. Sandino, later renamed Águilas Cibaeñas, was founded in 1937.
These four oldest teams are considered the founding teams of Dominican baseball, and formed the cornerstone of the sport.
Who is the best team?
Well, as with all sports teams, this question is constantly debated!
If we go by the figures, the Tigres del Licey have won the most national championships since LIDOM started in 1951. They are on 22, just ahead of the Águilas Cibaeñas on 21.
The underdogs of the league are Gigantes del Cibao who have only won the league once ever, in the 2014-15 season. Toros del Este are second from the bottom, on two wins.
Estadio Cibao is the DR’s largest stadium and seats 18,077 spectators. The DR hosted the 2008 Caribbean Series here.
Baseball games in the DR are massive cultural experiences. Even if you’re not that into sports, don’t pass on going to see a ‘juego de pelota’! You will learn a lot about Dominican culture. Plus, there’s always an after-party. Win or lose, it’s likely to be a good time.
If you’re chatting to a Dominican in Cabarete, there’s a good chance they’ll follow a national baseball team. Try asking, it’s a good conversation starter!