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A Brief History of Baseball and the Dominican Republic
The 1940s and 50s continued to bring acclaim to the nation, and its baseball league. The biggest baseball moment for the Dominicans, up until that point, came in 1956. This historic event paved the way for the future migration of Dominican talent to the United States. This year saw the debut of infielder Ozzie Virgil with the New York Giants. Virgil, who played nine seasons in the Major Leagues, brought Dominican baseball into the international spotlight. He was the first Dominican baseball player to play in the Majors, and it was the eventual success of Virgil, and fellow countrymen Juan Marichal, the Alou brothers, Manny Mota and others, that consolidated the Dominican Republic as a baseball powerhouse in the hemisphere.
With the prospect of a solid talent base so relatively close, teams from the Major Leagues quickly began to send money, players, and scouts to capitalize on the growing demand. This was another great boost for the Dominican baseball league and the country’s aspiring players, as they got to sharpen their skills with some of the world’s best talent. Players like Delmar Crandall, Grady Little, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, Tommy Lasorda, Mike Piazza, Alex Rodriguez, and many others have taken advantage of the level of competition available here, and helped make the league even stronger. Since the 1960s and 70s baseball schools have set up shop in the Dominican Republic, and these days every team in Major League Baseball has a school or an active representation here.

There are currently six teams in the Dominican league. Those previously mentioned, with the addition of Los Toros and Los Azucareros. The teams begin play in October, and the season runs through February, with each team playing 60 games, and the two finalists playing for the championship title. Both finalists also go on to represent the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Baseball Series against Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

Of the six teams in the league there have been two great rivalries that have emerged, though this has been to the detriment of the league’s popularity in recent years. In the earlier days of baseball on the island Los Tigres and Los Leones battled continuously for the top, but in more recent years it has been Los Tigres battling with Las Aguilas. Los Tigres have won 19 Dominican titles and 9 Caribbean World Series, while Las Aguilas have won 19 championships.

To date, 420 players from the Dominican Republic have played in the Majors (1956-2005), and according to Major League Baseball there are 119 players representing Latin America, which is 24% of major leaguers. Of these 119 players, 90 players come from the Dominican Republic. There are more Dominicans playing in the Majors than from any other country in Latin America, and the Dominican Republic has more players in the Majors than all other countries in Latin America combined. Dominicans have even made strides in other aspects of the game. In 2003 Tony Pena, formerly of the Kansas City Royals, coached against Felipe Alou, of the San Francisco Giants, making it the first time that two Dominicans coached against each other in the Majors. And in 2004 Omar Minaya became the first Dominican General Manager, working the front office for the New York Mets.

Though the strength of Dominican baseball is now found in each of the Major Leagues 30 teams, baseball still remains an important part of this country’s history, and an important cultural outlet on the island. Each time the topic of baseball comes up, the names of the legends of yesteryear who helped immortalize the game are remembered and discussed as if those players were still playing today. It is an improbable suggestion that each player, or baseball event will always be remembered, but it is possible to say that this country’s baseball past will always provide the foundation for its rich baseball future.
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