Catching a Dominican Republic Baseball Game on Holiday

Mike East catches a game of Dominican Republic baseball while on holiday in the Caribbean.

Americas, Culture & History

When we visit a foreign country, we think nothing of lying on the beaches, strolling through the streets or climbing the mountains. Often overlooked though are sports, writes Mike East, as he catches a game of Dominican Republic baseball while on holiday in the Caribbean.

I am in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital, night has fallen. I am a life-long cricket enthusiast and have walked to the baseball. The Quisqueya stadium is shared between two Santo Domingo baseball clubs: The Tigers and The Lions. Tonight, The Tigers, or correctly, Los Tigres de Licey, are hosting The Bulls, or Los Torros del Este, from La Romana to the east.

The suggestion is this: Go to a sport that you do not know, watch the sport and — crucially — watch the locals watching the sport they love.

Ashes or Barca?

A trip to see Barca is great but is it the same as sitting with the locals at a Dominican Republic baseball game?
A trip to see Barca is great but is it the same as sitting with the locals at a Dominican Republic baseball game?

Which English cricketing fan, in a wild surge of optimism, would not pack their bags and go to watch their team try (and likely fail) to wrest the Ashes back from the Australians, which football fan would not wish to follow their team to the World Cup? If we had the money, any sports fan would do that. It would be an unforgettable holiday.

What this piece is about is something different. Go further than a Premier League fan heading to Camp Nou to watch FC Barca, while in Spain. Gain real experiences that gave you an insight into the people around you. And what is guaranteed to bring out the passion in them — sport.

Here at the Dominican Republic baseball stadium, there’s the objective challenge of figuring out what is going on down on the field: What are the rules? What is each competitor trying to do? What are the winning tactics?

That is balanced by the subjectivity of being a member of the audience and feeling the emotions around you as they build and ebb and build again. Does this emotion affect you? Do you find yourself supporting a side? Do you maintain your neutrality? Do you feel what the locals do?

A Night Watching Baseball in the Dominican Republic

Mike enjoying his Dominican Republic Baseball game.
Mike enjoying his Dominican Republic Baseball game.

I get my ticket, my daypack is checked and I am in the stadium. It is old, but clearly lovingly cared for. Everything works and the toilets are very clean. I find my wood and metal seat and I already like the place — I can sense the sport history around me and find myself liking The Tigers too, despite my usual habit of supporting the underdog (The Bulls are bottom of the six professional clubs in the league).

There are other fun bits, such as the selection of food and drinks. Some seem the same the world over, but the range of fruit juices with granulated ice and shots of rum just fit perfectly with the tropical night.

We stand for the national anthem and off we go. The small, but very vocal knot of Bulls supporters nearby, make the most of their teams aggressive hitting at the start to take the lead. Their loud chanting discomforts the home fans.

Immediately, I’ve seen something — and, more importantly, I’ve felt something; it’s the passion around me. This is not an important game, in fact The Bulls are heading to elimination, yet I feel the emotion around me and I feel the intensity with which Dominicans enjoy their baseball. That is replicated in animated conversations in the days ahead when I discuss my visit to the stadium with other Dominicans.

Dominican Republic Baseball Fans

In fact, fans here are not called fans, they are called fanaticos, something which does not need translating, but catches perfectly what I sense around me.

The Tigers finally get The Bulls out in the first of nine innings and now it’s their turn with the bat. The crowd erupts — homerun! The batter hits the ball out of the field and runs round the bases, evening up the score. Personally, I am delighted, as you do not see homeruns in every game.

The Bulls’ pitcher gets the rest of the Tigers out and it is one each after the first innings, with the atmosphere building nicely.

Then nature intervenes; down comes a strong, driving rain.

We move in a wave to parts of the stadium covered by the roof, but the clouds are remorseless and my Dominican Republic baseball experience has come to an end. Match postponed.

It was still great; so glad I went.

My recommendation is to do the same then you are in a new place. Go and see the people both playing and watching the sports of your host nation. You will be awarded by a sensory and an emotional experience that will take you beyond the limits of the travel agent’s brochure.

Main image: Boys playing baseball in the Dominican Republic at at Las Galeras.

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Mike East

Mike East

Mike began his career in travel writing by writing his own guide on his holidays. He sent this manuscript off to a range of travel guide companies and got a range of rejection letters — all except one. Getting a contract to write for Roger Lascelles Publications on Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas was how his career began. With this opportunity came other pieces for British magazines, The Sunday Telegraph and now Travel Begins at 40.

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