Friday, June 13, 2008

Baseball, The Nicaraguan Way

Well over a hundred years ago, baseball achievements and Nicaragua seemed unrelated concepts. The game of cricket was the popular sport in Nicaragua. Most of it had to do with the British occupying the Atlantic Coast in the late 1800s, but that soon changed when a man by the name of Albert Addlesberg who convinced a couple of the teams that baseball culture was taking over throughout the world. America had already seen some spectacular baseball achievements from around their country, and Addlesberg wanted the same in Nicaragua, even flying in the equipment from Louisiana.

However, Nicaragua didn't have its first official game until 1891 when Granada played against Managua. Fifty-one years later, the national stadium was built, and today holds as many as 40,000 fans to watch baseball games their national team plays. A team that is known around the world today as a national powerhouse used to be nothing more that a mixture of players who didn't even hail from the country itself.

While Nicaraguan players like Dennis Martinez and Marvin Bernard found their way into the major leagues, the style of play is a little different then how it is played in the States. You won't find many Nicaraguan players that run out infield grounders, that's an easy play for the opponent. Baseball in their country is more about pride, and the love for a game that all players feel they were born to do. It's not about the million dollar paycheck, but more about a tradition even at a younger age where everyone plays on Sunday.

A notable difference has to be the respect for the umpires. In the years before, it was normal for umpires and players to argue, but it used to escalate into fighting and everyone realized it wasn't healthy for the game. So today, you will find that if a questionable call arises during the game, temper tantrums are nowhere to be found, and the game just moves along. It has become a style that people know as Nicaraguan baseball.

There are a few other things that distinguish their style to America. For instance, the side-arm or three quarters pitching motion is the normal teaching in Nicaragua. Then of course, the team chemistry when a meeting is held on the mound is a customary measure of its own. You will find that the entire team, especially after the sixth inning, all players on the field will be involved with the meeting. Not like the U.S. where players are singled out, and unless you're the catcher or trying to be a team player, no one else listens in. You almost never see outfielders come to the mound for a meeting.

Even though these are just a few of the ways that baseball is played in Nicaragua, their baseball culture is one of a kind. We've only seen a handful of their players come to play professional ball in the States, but the ones that did have certainly made an everlasting impression. Sometimes it's not always about all the baseball achievements that a player accomplishes that make him a hero. No, sometimes it's just getting to the major league level, letting your other countrymen know the dream is possible.

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