La Pelota: 15 Interesting Facts About Dominican Baseball

Some may say cash is king, but in the Dominican Republic, baseball is king! Similar to the United States, baseball is the Dominican Republic’s national pasttime.

The Ten Years War in Cuba forced many Cuban nationals to flee their country to find comfort and safety within the shores of the Dominican Republic.

FACT #1: In the late 1880s and early 1890s, the Cuban Nationals brought their passion for baseball with them to the Dominican Republic. Dominicans fell in love with the sport and soon organized games and tournaments began, much like you see today.

FACT #2: In 1921 the country’s professional baseball league was formed and consisted of four baseball teams called the Tigers, Eastern Stars, Lions of the Chosen One and the Eagles. The sport was so popular that President Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was brilliant enough to utilize the Dominican baseball league as a political tool.

FACT #3: During the 1937 baseball season, Trujillo merged the Tigers and the Lions into one team called the Ciudad Trujillo Dragons. Trujillo recruited baseball players from around the Caribbean including players from Cuban leagues.

FACT #4: Also in 1937, the newly formed Ciudad Trujillo Dragons won the championship. Many baseball enthusiasts consider the summer of 1937 as the summer that the best baseball was played in the world. Unfortunately, the costs from bringing in the best baseball players from other countries and their salaries caused the league to be hit hard financially. The baseball league was unable to recover from these losses even though they won the championship.

Although the hit to the professional baseball teams took a toll, it didn’t bury the passion and love that Dominicans had for the sport itself. Dominicans took to playing baseball all over again and formed their own amateur leagues.

FACT #5: Sadly in 1948, Dominican countrymen took a severe hit when a plane carrying half of the country’s baseball team crashed. The plane crash ended the season for the team but it didn’t end the league. The league came together to win the Mundiales in Managua, Nicaragua later that year.

FACT #6: The Dominican Republic’s history of baseball runs so deep that it also includes the Great Jackie Robinson. Robinson was even known to train with the Ciudad Trujillo Dragons, which created even more love and passion for the sport.

FACT #7: Another great stride for the Dominican Republic countrymen occurred in 1956 when Ozzie Virgil became the first Dominican baseball player to play in the major leagues.

People in the Dominican Republic are passionate about baseball, as you will see both young and old playing their nation’s favorite sport. If not playing, proud Dominicans spend their time listening or watching the game that they love so very much.

FACT #8: The Dominican Republic takes their favorite game a step further than other countries, including the American Majors, as they also showcase winter baseball, which is now owned by major league baseball.

FACT #9: The winter baseball league started in the early 1900s. The league played tournaments throughout the island and soon branched out to a Caribbean style of tournaments played throughout the winter. Named the Winter Cup Championship, this Championship offers some of the biggest major league stars the Dominican Republic has to offer, as well as notable up and comers to the game.

FACT #10: Proudly, for several years players from the Dominican Republic make up 11% or more of the Major League Baseball’s rosters, second only to the United States.FACT #11: Even more notable, the Dominican Republic’s national baseball team won the 2013 World Cup Championship at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

FACT #11: Even more notable, the Dominican Republic’s national baseball team won the 2013 World Cup Championship at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

FACT #12: The Dominican Republic has produced four MVP Award winners. These winners include:

  • Sammy Sosa (National League 1998)
  • Miguel Tejada (American League 2002)
  • Vladimir Guerrero (American League 2004)
  • Albert Pujols (National League 2005, 2008, 2009)

FACT #13: The Dominican Republic has produced two Cy Young award winners and seven Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year winners.

FACT #14: There are six Dominican pitchers ever to throw a no-hitter.

Major League scouts watch Dominican players very closely, as there is a very good chance that one of the next big baseball stars will come from the Dominican Republic.

FACT #15: A true baseball aficionado will be happy to explain that all 30 Major League Baseball clubs currently run their own camps in the Dominican Republic, testifying to the talent of players on the island. The clubs groom the players’ skills, along with improving their education by consistently working with them and housing them in on site dormitories.

Baseball is a significant economic force for the Dominican Republic, not only by employing many Dominicans but also via investing hundreds of millions into the Dominican Republic’s economy.

If you are a baseball fan and soon to be visiting the Dominican Republic, keep in mind that winter baseball begins in October and the Caribbean Championships usually take place in January or February. The atmosphere is electric and the camaraderie like none other. Take note of the many children playing a pickup game of baseball and the overall admiration and love for this country’s favorite sport.