But a small band of orange-wearing Toros fans, sitting high along the third-base line, was not deterred. They chanted for their outfielder, Charlie Blackmon (another American-born Colorado Rockies player), who got the only Spanish-accented English chant of the night: “Let's go, Blackmon!” They chanted their undying devotion even as they trailed (“Somos los Toros y no tenemos miedo!” which means “We are the Toros, and we are not scared!”), and they taunted the Estrellas' pitcher (“Tu eres loco” — “You are crazy”).
With the Toros down by 10 runs late, its fans turned their attention to another target: pitcher Jose Valverde, a San Pedro native who has enjoyed success in the major leagues and pitched for the Detroit Tigers in last fall's World Series. He sat in a bright pink shirt near home plate, rooting, it seemed, for the Estrellas.
The Toros fans started chanting Valverde's name and continued until he stood and waved. When they cheered gratitude, he responded by sending over a bucket of rum and soda. Then, an inning later, he ran up the steps to those fans and danced with them between innings. Just try to imagine an All-Star pitcher doing that in the United States.
Four hours later, the game was over, and the Estrellas had won, 15-6. For a Northerner, it was a much-needed shot of live baseball in the middle of winter. For Ambiorix, it was a double success on a local level: Not only did his team win, his man Junior Lake had two hits and a run batted in.
If you go
The Dominican Republic baseball season runs from mid-October to mid-January, but it's not too late for your taste of the action: The top team will head to the Caribbean Series, a tournament that the Dominican Republican has won more than any other country, next month, in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Should you wait to attend a game in the Dominican Republic, stadiums are so small that there truly isn't a bad seat in the house. Tickets usually are easy to buy at the box office, though big games, like rivalries, can sell out. The most expensive ticket usually costs about $10. Stadiums can be accessed by fairly inexpensive taxi rides, though be sure to get your ride via a reputable source, such as your hotel. Negotiate the price of the ride before departing.
The games will be familiar to fans of U.S. baseball, with professional talent on the field, and vendors selling beer, soda pop, candy and empanadas. Teams are based in the following cities:
Santo Domingo: The capital and country's largest city is home to two teams: Leones del Escogido and Tigres del Licey.
San Pedro de Macoris: Hailing from one of the nation's hotbeds of ballplayers, Estrellas Orientales attract a fervent following.
Santiago: Home to Aguilas Cibaenas, one of the nation's legendary and most successful teams.
La Romana: The Toros del Este are just 25 miles from San Pedro.
San Francisco de Macoris: Gigantes del Cibao, which means, yes, the San Francisco Giants are not only in California.