Magazine article Newsweek International

First Person Global

Magazine article Newsweek International

First Person Global

Article excerpt

I've lived in the United States for nearly 15 years. But baseball-- America's national pastime--always baffled me. Overstuffing yourself with hot dogs, so many games (162 per season) that each seems meaningless individually, depressingly few hits--I just couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Amazingly, all it took to change my view from the stands was a visit to the Dominican Republic. More specifically, all it took was one spring afternoon in the city of Santo Domingo.

On one side of a 300-yard stretch of Calle Venezuela, people overflowed from a dozen little open-front mini-markets called colmados. On the other side, eight discotheques stared back. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon, they were already packed. Both the discos and the colmados relentlessly blasted merengue at each other.

My friend Jose and I began our afternoon in the colmados. In each store, several televisions blared out the broadcasts in duet with the merengue: A's vs. Mariners, Red Sox vs. Orioles, Braves vs. Mets, Cubs vs. Pirates... almost every U.S. major-league game was on one screen or another. Men and women, young and old, sat drinking their sodas and Presidente beer, chatting among themselves when the action paused, or dancing a quick turn between innings.

Suddenly, local hero Sammy Sosa was up to bat, and everyone turned to watch. Swing and a miss! Strike one, and the crowd let out a low murmur. Pitch two: Crack! Before the sound even reached my ears, the colmados were rocking under a tremor of jubilant baseball fanatics.

My surprise at their proud passion really shows how little I had cared for baseball. Apparently, Dominicans are the best baseball players in the world. Ever since a group of Cuban refugees brought the game over in the 1870s, baseball has been part of the Dominican way of life. Leagues were formed in the early 1900s, and today more than 20 U. …

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