Baseball: the American Pastime in the Dominican Republic

Topics: Major League Baseball, Dominican Republic, Baseball Pages: 5 (1926 words) Published: December 6, 2011
Baseball: The American Pastime in the Dominican Republic

One hundred and forty years after American-influenced Cubans fled their home island during the Ten Years’ War and brought baseball to the Dominican Republic (D.R.), the sport is thriving in the impoverished nation. In the sport’s top professional league, Major League Baseball (MLB), more current players were born in the Dominican Republic than any other country besides the United States, where 29 of the 30 MLB teams are based (Gregory 2010). The Dominican, a nation of 9.7 million that lies 700 miles southeast of the port of Miami, produced 86 of the 833 major league players on the opening-day rosters of the 2010 Major League Baseball clubs, and about a quarter of all the 7,000 players in the minor leagues hail from the small Caribbean nation (Gregory 2010). And these Dominicans are far from peripheral figures in the major leagues; in fact, they’re central to the success of an array of MLB franchises. Setting hitting and home run records in the 2011 postseason, native Dominicans Albert Pujols and Nelson Cruz have led their clubs, the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers, respectively, to the pinnacle of the sport, the league’s seven game championship—The World Series. Many of the biggest names in MLB, including Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Adrian Beltre and Jose Reyes all call the Dominican home. But why has baseball, a sport that has declined in popularity at the hands of American football and basketball in recent decades, diffused so rampantly and successfully to the Dominican? As a process of culture change and neocolonialism, baseball diffusion to the Dominican provides a particularly interesting look at the divisive nature of the geographical forces of spatial flows and regional coherence. After Cubans brought the game to the Dominican in 1891, the game grew most in popularity during the reign of General Trujillo from 1930 to 1963. In his sports sociology article “Baseball as Underdevelopment: The Political-Economy of Sport in the Dominican Republic,” Alan Klein writes (1989, 96-97) that on the island, “[Trujillo] encouraged the American-owned sugar refineries to subsidize teams of cane cutters to play during the months they were idle from the fields. As in Cuba, this practice fostered a high level of organization and intense competition, which in turn stimulated growth in the caliber of play and overall popularity of the game.” Baseball soon became a natural fit for the island nation. As in Cuba, the tropical, constantly warm climate provided weather that was conducive to playing the game throughout the four seasons, something not even America could manage. In addition, the game gave young Dominicans the prospect of eventually getting to move north of the island to ply their new favorite trade in the more prosperous United States, something that the sugar refining industry could not offer. Though American businessmen were exploiting the cheaper cost of cultivation in the Dominican at the time, they did provide some semblance of economic viability to many Dominicans, and in promoting baseball there with the help of Trujillo, they inextricably tied the game to the fertile land of the Republic and those who tended to it, thus beginning a long trend of spatial flows of money and players between the two nations that continues on into the present day.

From this first generation of baseball aficionados in the Dominican came a foundation upon which baseball would reach mythical status, something elders would pass down to future generations with a pride unrivaled by any other pastime practiced in the Dominican. In his book The Tropic of Baseball, Baseball in the Dominican Republic, Rob Ruck writes, “No other aspect of Dominican life, except perhaps for merengue, has provided as much joie de vivre for this Third World country, as baseball, its highest art form” (Ruck xx). Ruck is correct in capturing this sentiment, that baseball truly became...
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