Baseball season goes south for the winter in the Americas

Baseball season goes south for the winter in the Americas
Destinations such as Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela -- and even USA states with favorable climates -- ensure baseball is played all year long across the Americas.

The 2020-2021 winter baseball season 2020-21 in the Americas will be unlike previous years due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP, Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional -- WBSC Associate Member) will open on Friday, 27 November. The eight teams have been split into two different groups. Aguilas del Zulia, defending champions Cardenales de Lara, Navegantes del Magallanes and Tigres de Aragua will compete in the west division, while Bravos de Margarita, Caribes de Anzoategui, Leones del Caracas and Tiburones de La Guaira will be part of the east division.

The LVBP season will be played entirely in isolated bubbles in the middle of the country: Barquisimeto, Valencia and Maracay. The league also plans to play games in La Guaira.

Day 1 of the regular season will feature four games, all scheduled at 6 pm local time: Tigres-Caribes, Bravos-Navegantes, Aguilas-Cardenales, Leones-Tiburones.

The 40-game regular season will finish on 10 January 2021. The top two finishers of each division will qualify for the postseason, scheduled to begin on 12 January.

The season opens behind closed doors. The league is planning to open ballparks at 30% of capacity in January if the number of COVID-19 cases is kept under control.

Puerto Rico's Winter League (LBPRC, Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente -- WBSC Associate Member) will open on 8 December with only four participating clubs: Indios de Mayagüez, Criollos de Caguas, Atenienses de Manatí and the development project RA12 by former Major League Baseball (MLB) star Roberto Alomar. Three teams, including two-time defending champions Cangrejeros de Santurce, the Gigantes de Carolina and the Tiburones de Aguadilla opted out for the 2020-21 season because of financial issues. Their players have been declared free agents for the season.

The government has not yet given permission to open the ballparks to fans. The four clubs will play an 18-game regular season followed by semifinals and finals.

The Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League (LIDOM, Liga Dominicana de Béisbol -- WBSC Associate Member) opened on 15 November. The 2020-21 season will be the first in 67 editions played with games closed to the public. The six participating teams are Gigantes del Cibao, Tigres del Licey, Aguilas Cibaenas, Leones del Escogido, Estrellas Oriental and the defending champions Toros del Este.

The regular season will feature 30 games instead of the usual 50. The top four finishers will advance to the postseason, where the format has been changed from a traditional 18-game round robin to a couple of seven-game series.

The Mexican Pacific League (LMP, Liga Mexicana del Pacifico -- WBSC Associate Member) opened on 15 October and was put on hold on 10 November after a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The 10-team league will open the second round of the regular season on Friday, 27 November. The Yaquis de Obregon are currently on top with a 21-7 record.

Winter baseball is also happening in places like Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Panama and USA, with WBSC's 'GameTime.Sport' live-streaming games from the Cuban Serie Nacional, Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League and the Panama National Baseball League.