Santo Domingo Feature


Take Me Down to the Ball Game

Béisbol is the Domincans' passion, and their pride in it has brought recognition, fame, and fortune to their shores. Try not to miss the opportunity to take in a game—even if you might usually prefer shopping over a sporting event. This is a cross-cultural experience that can be unforgettable. Expect passionate and sometimes rowdy crowds, as well as great playing and a strong, competitive spirit.

David Keller, a coach for the Chicago Cubs, lives in Tampa, and has been coming down to the Dominican Republic during the winter season since the late 1990s. As he explains, "The first three weeks in December, the big kahunas come down, like Tony Batista, Juan Acevedo, Migel Tejada, and Alberto Castillo. The Texas Rangers were down in December and rented a couple of penthouses on the new Juan Dolio Beach. I come down four to five times a year myself to coach and am now a hitting instructor. There is quite a competitive relationship between the Dominican and American players."

During one game that David attended, former Dominican President Hipolito threw the first ceremonial pitch for an Aquilas-Licey matchup. Dave saw the president making his way to the dugout and started to silently rehearse his Spanish, to be certain that his greeting would be correcto. Instead, when Hipolito saw him, he said: "Hola, gringo! Deme cinco!" ("Give me five!"). So much for protocol.

"One thing that differentiates a Dominican ball game is the fans," David emphasized. "To say they are enthusiastic doesn't cover it. They do love their teams! They don't get out of control so much now that the ruling was made that if a bottle or can is thrown from the home bleachers, the home team has to forfeit the game. Before, they had been known to throw things at the umpires when they made a bad call."

No peanuts and popcorn here, but empanadas with pepperoni and cheese and pastellas (seasoned ground beef with mashed plantains wrapped in a plantain leaf, to which you can add ketchup or mayo) are on the menu. The mascot for the home team, the Toros del Oeste (nicknamed Azucareros, as this is sugarcane country) rides around on a scooter. Between innings, fans dance wildly. The beer and rum flow. As passionate as Dominicans can be for the game, though, they are still on island time; even aficionados often come late, straggling in as late as the fourth inning.

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