Written by: September
Boisterous. That’s the only word that can describe the atmosphere. You can barely hear yourself speak over the constant buzzing. Walking into Marlins Park is like walking down Times Square on a Saturday summer night; it’s sticky, it’s overcrowded, and it’s loud. Tonight, the Dominican Republic is set to take on Canada for the Pool C opener of the World Baseball Classic.
The tournament is played every four years and was initiated in 2006 as a means to promote baseball around the world. It gained more popularity after baseball was removed from the Olympics after 2008 as the only professional worldwide baseball tournament. Countries that aren’t particularly known for their talents in the diamond, such as Pakistan, Brazil and Australia, compete in the qualifiers for a chance at glory.
But no team inspires as much excitement as reigning WBC champions, Team Dominican Republic. In 2013, they went undefeated in the entire competition, beating Puerto Rico in the finals to claim the golden trophy. In 2017, they are the favorites to repeat.
The lineup is as star-studded as you could imagine a Dominican team to be: Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes, Manny Machado, Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre. Players who are all integral parts of their MLB teams, coming together on one roster like an epic baseball Voltron. Their excitement to be a part of this competition was always evident. Their fight song is a party anthem in the Dominican Republic (“Klk Con Klk” by Dominican dembow artist Ceky Veciny). They carry platanos to the dugout, tucking them in their pockets for good luck. In between innings they dance to the merengue blaring from the ballpark speakers. This feel-good attitude epitomizes the team and spills over into the thousands of fans rooting for them.
Every strike Carlos Martinez throws inspires reactions as if it were a 2-run homer blasted out of the park. A walk draws people to their feet. A homerun is celebrated all throughout the next at bat. This primal excitement is something that’s usually reserved for postseason games.
In the middle of animated chatter with random strangers, Wellington Castillo smacks a ball into the right field for a 2-run homer. The older Dominican man next to me throws his hands in air and lets out the most jubilant scream. He turns to me with a smile as wide as the baseball field and says, “Does your white friend know Dominicans are the best?” I can’t help but laugh.
This cocky-but-friendly attitude seems to permeate all through Miami during the tournament. Walk down Brickell St. in Downtown on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll see Dominican flags waving from cars. Baytown Marketplace is littered with Dominicans animatedly chatting about their beloved players. Bars, restaurants and hotels are all packed with fans coming from near and far for one motive, to watch the hometown Dominicans run over every team that goes up against them. This humid Thursday night, Canada will go on to lose 9-2 to the Dominican Republic.
Team DR will go on to beat the USA and Colombia and secure their position in the semifinals. Their fans are along for the whole ride; cheering and believing in the same dream, to see their team win a championship that meant so much to their people.
Eventually, that dream will be crushed on Friday, March 17th when the Dominican Republic is eliminated in the semi-finals by Team USA, assisted by an incredible catch by Adam Jones.
Still, ask any Dominican and they’ll tell you the same thing; they may have lost their chance to repeat, but they’re still proud of their boys. This loss does not damper their love for baseball or bring down their spirits. They know the Dominican Republic will eventually win it all once again. And they’ll gladly see you in 2021.