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Dominican Winter League Baseball
Submitted by dr1guide on February 9, 2010 – 6:37 pmNo Comment

League-BaseballA night at the ballpark

It’s Friday night in the capital and there’s no better place to be than the Quisqueya Ball Park. On this night, Santo Domingo’s beloved Tigres de Licey are taking on their rival Aguilas Cibaeñas from the DR’s second city, Santiago. For RD$600 pesos (US$16) my girlfriend and I are three rows behind home plate. For RD$250 pesos (US$7) we sit down with a beer, a soda, two hot dogs with the works and an empanada. Behind me, Licey and Aguilas fans go back and forth with cowbells, horns and chants. To my right, a man is given a microphone to sing karaoke for the stadium. To my left, six provocative cheerleaders dance on the Licey dugout causing a frenzy of camera flashes. In front of me are some of the most talented ball players in the world. This is Dominican Winter League baseball.

From late October to January, the DR erupts to support their local teams in the Dominican Winter League. The league consists of six teams who play a regular sea- son 50-game schedule from late October to late December. The teams are comprised of local pro players as well as players from international professional leagues, mainly from the MLB’s minor league. Major League Baseball players join teams after their season ends with big name players mainly joining up in December to help their team qualify. In January, the top four teams play an 18-game round-robin playoff. The top two teams in these standings then play a nine-game final series that captivates the nation. The league champion then goes on to the Caribbean Series to play against champions from Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico in early February.

The country’s four remaining teams are: the Leones de Escogido (SD), the Azucareros del Este (La Romana), the Estrellas Orientales (San Pedro), and the Gigantes del Cibao (San Francisco). Tonight’s game is between the league’s most successful franchises, each with a league- leading 20 national titles. This is an important game but the show off the field is just as the fun as the one on it. Cheering at a winter league game is from start to finish. A foul ball is as much a reason to hit the cowbell as a homerun. The atmosphere is vibrant but also laid back and parallels what must have been the Major League Baseball of years past. Players joke with kids from the batter’s box, seats and food are affordable and security threats are non-existent. All the while, current, former and future Major League stars play for the pride of representing their hometown, with the dream of representing their country in February.

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