Special to Page 2
More than 300 Dominicans have made it to the major leagues, so there has never been a shortage of articles about the baseball-crazed island. When I pitched going down there to write for The Mag, I also wanted to visually document baseball and the winter league playoffs in the Dominican Republic. As much as I'd like to be the next Walker Evans, my photography skills aren't quite up to par. Luckily that didn't stop Page 2 editors from allowing me to chronicle my four-day stay in the Dominican with my camera.
One cliché I anticipated was quickly confirmed by Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena, who warned to stay out of the stands because "the fans are crazy," he said with a smile. "I've seen brawls out there." Pena plays for the Aguilas (Eagles), a team based out of Santiago, the second-largest D.R. city located 2½ hours north of Santo Domingo. The Tigres (Tigers) del Licey -- Aguilas' rival -- were hosting the game I attended. At the game there were almost two on-field brawls -- one started by Licey's batboy -- a power outage and reggaeton-dancing cheerleaders on the dugouts.
With a week to go before pitchers and catchers report, here is my D.R. pictorial postcard as prelude to the 2006 season.
|I went to MLB's Dominican Office, about a 15-minute cab ride from the downtown hotel to the office. It was in a small residential neighborhood called Mirador Norte. The office, which employs seven people, all Dominican, is busy with scouts frequently dropping in; one of the main responsibilities is investigating players' ages. The minimum age to sign with an MLB team is 16½.|
|After the rainout of Game 3, I finally made it to a game. This is a shot on the way to the bleacher entrance along the first-base line at Estadio Quisqueya, built in 1955 by dictator president Rafael Trujillo. The ballpark holds roughly 16,000 people, and at the top of the frame you can see the enormous yellow Aguilas flags wave.|
|Outside the bleacher entrance, a man cooks eggs on a small pan. He saw me coming with my camera and posed for the photo. There were many vendors outside; one man had a box full of ham-and-cheese subs, another sold flavored ice, someone else vended empanadas right at the gate, and there were plenty of team hats and T-shirts for sale.|
|These are the horns, and no Dominican baseball story is complete without mention of these fantastic instruments. It seems everyone in the stadium has one, and once people start blowing they never stop. The collective noise is similar to a swarm of bees coming at you. At first it is a little unnerving, but it really adds excitement. The constant hum can be heard when listening on the radio.|
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Amy K. Nelson is a reporter for ESPN The Magazine. She can be reached at Amy.K.Nelson@espn3.com