History of Baseball in the Dominican Republic - Jaime Bonetti Ze

History of Baseball in the Dominican Republic

Article Published by: mlb.com

While it is thought by many that baseball was first introduced to the Dominican Republic by United States Army soldiers stationed there, it was actually its Caribbean neighbor, Cuba, which brought the sport to the shores of the country.

Although baseball was becoming very popular and widespread throughout Cuba in the early 1860s, the Ten Years War (1868-1878) forced many of Cuba’s most passionate baseball fans to flee the country. Many of these individuals found solace on the shores of the Dominican Republic, where they attempted to introduce the sport to the island’s natives in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

These efforts were very successful, and soon thereafter, organized games and tournaments were being held across the country. By 1921, the four teams (Tigers, Eastern Stars, Eagles and Lions of the Chosen One) — which, today, are considered the founding teams of the Dominican league — had all been created to establish the island’s premier professional baseball league.

After taking control of the country in 1930 by means of a coup, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo took a keen interest in utilizing this professional league as a strong nationalist and political tool. He decided to merge the Tigers and the Lions into one team called the Trujillo Dragons for the 1937 season. While the merger was successful and the Dragons did win the championship that year, the inflation of salaries caused by Trujillo’s actions crippled the league economically, forcing it to fold.

While professional baseball disappeared, amateur baseball on the island was nonetheless still flourishing. Despite a plane crash in 1948 that killed half the team, a determined Dominican Republic squad went on to dominate its international competition and took home its first amateur championship. Helped by this success, three years later the Dominican Winter Professional League was recreated with its original four teams. Today, after the addition of two more teams, Dominican’s professional league features six teams, each of which plays a regular season schedule of 50 games. The top four regular season teams advance into a playoff round robin and the top two from that competition proceed to battle it out in a best of five championships. The victor of the Dominican league has done very well in the Caribbean World Series.

While Major League scouts watch very closely to look for the next star from the Dominican Republic, all 30 Major League Baseball clubs run their own academies on the island, attesting to the talent of so many of the natives playing there. Many of the country’s players rank among the best in the world. On Major League Baseball’s 2012 Opening Day, 95 of the 856 players on 25-man rosters and inactive lists — 11.1% — were born in the Dominican Republic, marking the highest total of any country outside the United States. Eleven participants in the 2011 All-Star Game were Dominican natives, the highest total of any country or territory outside the U.S.

About Jaime Bonetti Zeller

Jaime Bonetti Zeller is an investment professional and entrepreneur with businesses in multiple industries. He is president of Servicios Consulares Eurodom, the local partner in the Caribbean region for VFS Global, a leader global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. Jaime Bonetti Zeller also started the company Sofratesa de Panama inc., an organization in the engineering services industry located in Panama City.