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Latin American leagues
El Pasatiempo Inter-nacional

Baseball in Latin America

There is no doubt that soccer (or "futbol" in Spanish) is the most popular sport in Latin America, as in most of the world. Yet baseball (or "beisbol" in Spanish) is the number one sport in much of the Caribbean basin. Baseball spread to other countries in the early 20th century as U.S. imperial power spread out across the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Wherever U.S. cultural influence has been strongest, baseball has become more popular in Latin America. Indeed, in many cases baseball was introduced during U.S. military occupation. Fidel Castro is an avid baseball fan and once played himself. (If Fidel Castro had had better luck with his baseball career, the history of the Cold War might have turned out much differently!) Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez fled Cuba in 2000 and became a New York Yankee. It's one of the clearest examples of Latin America's "love-hate" relationship with the "Colossus of the North." Today roughly 30 percent of major league players come from Latin America, or are descendants of Latino families who grew up in the United States. Many of them supplement their earnings by playing "winter league" ball in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Baseball is also enormously popular in Cuba, and is making inroads into Central and South America.

Each year the baseball-playing nations of the Caribbean send their respective champion teams to represent their nations in the Caribbean World Series. This international event began in 1949. A table showing the champions for each year since then (except 1981, when it was not held) can be found at

In March 2006 the first "World Baseball Classic" championship was held, with games in the U.S.A., Puerto Rico, and Japan. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela were each represented, but not Nicaragua. After some haggling, Cuba was allowed to participate. Japan emerged triumphant, to the surprise of many.

Mexican League (AAA rated)

Season: March - August. Mexico is distinguished by having its top-level baseball league play during the summer months. Some aging North American major league players continue their careers in Mexico, and some of them (most notably, Julio Franco) manage to return to the big leagues.

North Zone
City Team Stadium
Monclova Acereros del Norte  
Mexico City Diablos Rojos del Mexico Foro Sol
Saltillo Saraperos Parque Francisco I. Madero
Monterrey Sultanes Estadio Monterrey
La Laguna Vaqueros  
Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes  
Reynosa Broncos  
Chihuahua Dorados  

South Zone
City Team Stadium
Minatitlan Petroleros .
Oaxaca Guerreros Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos (BEEN THERE)
Cancun Tigres de Quintana Roo .
Merida Leones de Yucatan .
Villahermosa Olmecas de Tabasco .
Campeche Piratas .
Veracruz Rojos del Aguila .
Puebla Pericos .

FAN TIP: Juan Martínez Miguel Ramírez

Mexican Winter League

All the franchises are based in small towns in northwestern Mexico.

City Team Stadium
Culiacan Tomato Growers  
Guasave Cottoners  
Hermosillo Orange Growers  
Mazatlan Deer  
Mexicali Eagles  
Los Mochis Sugarcane Growers  
Navojoa Mayos  
Obregon Yanquis  

* retired

Puerto Rican League

Season: November through January. In recent years, franchises in Puerto Rico have been shuffled around the island's cities like a game of musical chairs. This table only shows current information (as of 2004-2005) and is subject to revision. Ballparks in Puerto Rico are quite modern, by and large, typically one deck with a large roof and ample foul territory. Most of them have artificial turf, which gets extremely hot in the tropical sun. One exception is J.R. Loubriel Stadium, former home of the Bayamon Vaqueros (Cowboys), who relocated to San Juan and became the Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers) in 2003.

Puerto Ricans were initially thrilled by the arrival of Major League Baseball, as the Montreal Expos played 22 of their "home" games in San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium in 2003 and 2004. Crowds at Estadio Hiram Bithorn steadily dwindled from a packed house of 20,000 to 10,000 or less, however, not much more than in Montreal. The franchise moved permanently to Washington, D.C. in 2005, becoming the Nationals.

City Team Stadium
Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers) Estadio Hiram Bithorn
Caguas Criollos (Creoles) Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales
Carolina Giants Estadio Roberto Clemente
Mayaguez Indios (Indians) Estadio Isidoro Garcia
Ponce Leones (Lions) Estadio Francisco Montaner
Manati Atenienses (Athenians) Estadio Roman Melendez

*: retired

Dominican Republic League

Season: October - February. Baseball has had a huge economic and cultural impact has on the Dominican Republic, which is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. A 2003 study commissioned by MLB estimated that baseball adds $76 million to the country's economy every year, via MLB players' salary remittances, farm club operations, and various charity/development projects. These baseball activities create an estimated 1,200 jobs, altogether. (Washington Post, July 25, 2003) When Hurricane Georges struck in 1998, national hero Sammy Sosa played a leading role in the relief and recovery effort.

City Team Stadium
Santiago Cibao Aguilas (Eagles)Estadio Cibao
La RomanaEste Azucareros (Sugarcane growers) 
Santiago Cibao Gigantes (Giants)Estadio Cibao
Santo Domingo Escogido Leones (Lions)Estadio Quisqueya
San Pedro de Macoris Oriente Estrellas (Eastern Stars)Estadio Tetelo Vargas
San Francisco de Macori Licey Tigres (Tigers) 

Dominican Republic Summer League

Season: June - August. The Dominican Republic's Summer League was founded in 1985, and has grown to include 34 teams.

As of 2000, 71 of the 839 players in the major leagues were natives of the Dominican Republic.

SOURCE: Washington Post Magazine, March 11, 2001

Venezuelan Winter League

Year introduced: 1895. The general strike launched by opponents of President Hugo Chavez resulted in cancellation of most of the 2002-2003 winter baseball season in Venezuela.

City, Province Team Stadium
Maracay, Aragua Tigres (Tigers)  
Caracas Leones (Lions)  
La Guaira, port of Caracas Tiburones (Sharks)  
Barquisimeto, Lara Cardenales (Cardinals)  
Magallanes (Caracas) Navegantes (Navigators)  
Araure, Portuguesa (Los Llanos / Occidente) Pastora (Shepherdess)  
Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui (Oriente) Caribes (Caribbeans)  
Maracaibo, Zulia Aguilas (Eagles)  

Venezuelan Summer League

Consists of minor league players. Each of the teams (nine, presently) is affiliated with an North American major league franchise.

* (retired)


Regular season (varies): October - March. Talk about a love-hate relationship! Professional baseball had a long and proud history in Cuba, but came to an end in 1961, as Castro's revolution took a sharp turn toward Marxism. In 1996 the Cuban national baseball team won the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, but several of its players defected, including Livan Hernandez. His half-brother, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez managed to escape in 2000, and signed a contract with the Yankees. In March 1999 the Baltimore Orioles created a controversy by playing an exhibition game at the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. Distinguished by the inclined light towers that surround the field, it was originally built in 1946 and was expanded to seat 55,000+ in 1971. Below are listed the 16 amateur teams that play in Cuba.

BOOKS: Roberto Gonzalez Echeverria, The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Zona Occidental (West)
Group A
Zona Occidental (West)
Group B
Zona Oriental (East)
Group C
Zona Oriental (East)
Group D
Pinar del Rio Isla de la Juventud (ex- Isla de Pinos) Metropolitanos (Havana City) Matanzas
Industriales (Havana City) Habana Cienfuegos Sancti Spiritus
Villa Clara Camaguey Ciego de Avila Las Tunas
Santiago de Cuba Granma Guantanamo Holguin

SOURCE: USA Today Baseball Weekly, March 24-30, 1999

Nicaraguan League

Like Cuba, Nicaragua's passion for baseball is interwoven with its past experience with U.S. military intervention, creating a stronger-than-average love-hate relationship. The country's economy suffered terribly as a result of the long civil war between the Sandinistas and the U.S.-supported "contras" in the 1980s, and much rebuilding needs to be done. As a result, professional baseball has a precarious status here, and the roster of teams often fluctuates from one year to the next.

City Team Stadium
Managua Boer (name of Indian tribe)Estadio Dennis Martinez (BEEN THERE)

Estadio Dennis Martinez

Estadio Dennis Martinez, named for Nicaragua's greatest baseball player, located about one mile west of downtown Managua. I persuaded the grounds crew to let me take a look inside, but they wouldn't let me take a photograph because they were still cleaning up a big mess left by an evangelical revival meeting that had taken place there on the previous evening. (February 2005)

Other countries

SOURCES: Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Baseball: An Illustrated History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994); VISTA Magazine supplement (bilingal) on Latino Baseball, circa 2002.

GENERAL WEB LINKS: Latino Baseball;;; El Pelotero On Line

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