Miles From Fenway


Transcending the Language Barrier: The Dominican Republic and Baseball
February 4, 2005, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I recently got back from the Dominican Republic. A few friends and I decided to take the trip on a whim and we had an amazing time. Below is something I wrote for rsn.net:

As I’ve mentioned to many I recently took a trip to the Dominican Republic. This being my first trip outside of the United States (save for a few trips to Montreal, which I really don’t count) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Especially since I speak no Spanish whatsoever and neither do the two women I was traveling with. What I didn’t realize was that I held the key to breaking the language barrier.

I speak fluent baseball.

We’ve all heard about how obsessed the Dominican Republic is with baseball from the likes of Pedro and Manny. We’ve heard the stories of Pedro sitting underneath a tree with no money. But nothing could have prepared me for the four days I spent down there.

I hadn’t really given much thought to the baseball aspect of the vacation until we stepped into line to check in at JFK. Everywhere I looked there were Red Sox hats. For a moment I was confused. The concentration of Red Sox fans in the line rivaled that at the Riviera. And then I remembered all the stories. Suddenly I wanted to rip my Sox hat out of my luggage and plop it on. I had found my people!

Throughout the trip I had more Red Sox conversations than I can even remember completely. It started right away with our cab driver, who took us on the two hour trip from Santiago to Cabarette. His English was pretty good actually, and he was eager to practice it with us. When he asked us where we were from and my friends said Boston he immediately said “Ah, Red Sox! Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez!” My friends, not being sports fans at all, told him I was a big fan. He then whipped out his camera and showed me three pictures of Manny from a few weeks previous to my trip. Apparently Manny had gone back for a visit and Matismo (our driver) had gone to the airport to greet him. He explained to us how when the Red Sox won the World Series there were all night parties all over the Dominican. His descriptions, while at times tough to understand, made it sound like Boston on that night.

What surprised me about Matismo was that his knowledge of the game goes much further back than even mine did until recently. When we checked into our hotel there was a LONG delay while they tried to track down our reservation. Matismo stayed to make sure we got checked in ok and was sitting reading the paper. I pulled out my Monville biography of Ted Williams and flipped to the picture section. When I opened the book and showed it to Matismo, and explained that these were pictures of Williams he got all excited.

“I know Ted Williams. Best ever player.” He said while making a batting motion with his hands. He and I looked through the pictures together and it was like sitting with a 5 year old kid on Christmas. He had heard about Williams but had never seen his picture.

I wore my Sox hat as often as I could for the rest of the trip. It was a great way to meet people, regardless of how poorly they spoke English or the fact that I spoke NO Spanish. The hotel workers started calling me Boston. I had conversations with people about Pedro going to the Mets. Whenever I mentioned that Pedro had gone to New York, most all people said “But at least he not a Yankee.”

While talking to everyone about the Sox was a lot of fun, especially seeing it from a different perspective, what was most amazing about the trip was that we were down there for the last few games of the Dominican World Series. Many of my Sox conversations eventually led to talking to people about these games between the Licey Tigers and the Aguilas who I believe are from the Santo Domingo area. And this is where it got interesting.

While talking to someone at the gas station in town about the Red Sox, I noticed that they were playing Tigers highlights on the television. I had heard of Licey only because Hanley Ramirez played for that at one time and I thought still did. I mentioned to the man I was talking to that I had heard of the team and he got extremely animated.

“History happen here in Dominican, just like in America! Licey lose three games. One more lose and over. Then Licey win three games. Tonight last game! Just like Red Sox!” That night we wandered around Cabaratte for a while, just taking one last look before going into Puerto Plata that night and going home the following morning. As we were walking we noticed the same thing we had the previous two nights, groups of people, usually about 30 – 35 people, congregating around various storefronts. Upon further inspection I confirmed what I had thought before, they were watching the games.

It seemed that every store that had a television was pushing the set up to the window and that is how people got to watch the games. Though we were in the heart of Aguila territory, most everyone seemed to be pulling for the Tigers. One person described the situation to me this way: “The Aguilas are the Yankees, the Tigers are the Red Sox”.

That night, in Puerto Plata, the game was just wrapping up as we finished dinner. We knew as soon as the game was over because the celebrating happened immediately. We ran out to the porch of the restaurant and there were SEAS of yellow and black flags and banners (the Aguilas colors). Down the street there must have been a group of 100 people outside a movie theater all screaming and shooting guns in the air (that was a little scary I’m not going to lie). In the half an hour ride home we saw impromptu parades, people banging together anything they could to make noise, spilling out the backs of pick-up trucks, hanging onto the sides of busses, riding on top of minivans, dragging all sorts of things behind their cars and scooters.

Our taxi driver, a Licey fan who was proudly flying a Tigers flag from his car, was getting booed everywhere. When we asked him how he was feeling he said:

“It is amazing they made it this far. Next year we will win.”

My friends turned to me and promptly told me to move to the Dominican Republic. I had found the motherland.

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Best regards from NY! New dodge challenger video soviet army wool coat

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