Federation Focus: Baseball is in Dominican Republic's DNA

Federation Focus: Baseball is in Dominican Republic's DNA
October's Federation Focus publication features the Dominican Baseball Federation. Amaurys Nina, a former professional outfielder now in charge of the country's baseball operations, spoke with the WBSC.

After the two special editions dedicated to baseball and softball's Tokyo 2020 gold medalists, the Federation Focus column returns to its usual monthly pace in October. The latest installment is about FEDOBE, the Dominican Baseball Federation.

The Dominican National Baseball Team programme is currently ranked sixth in the world, according to the WBSC Baseball World Rankings.

The WBSC had a chance to talk to Amaurys Nina, who is in charge of baseball operations with FEDOBE, during the U-23 Baseball World Cup in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico.

Nina, 44, is a former professional player. He was working with the Dominican outlet of the International Prospect League (IPL) when FEDOBE president Juan Antonio Nuñez Nepomuceno asked him to join the federation.

"Right now, my job with FEDOBE is supporting president Nuñez in the attempt to have the activity more organized and integrated," said Nina. "We need to start at the grassroots level. Our goal is to instruct and educate kids so that we can develop better players and good persons."

Nina added: "It's no secret that in the Dominican Republic, we have a lot of talent, but we need to organize work more efficiently."

Nuñez succeeded the late Tito Pereyra, who passed away in May 2019, days before his 59th birthday. Pereyra, at the time, was serving as the president of COPABE, the Continental Confederation, and as a WBSC Continental Vice President.

"I never met Pereyra," said Nina. "Still, I am impressed about what he did. He made Dominican baseball proud. President Nuñez is following his vision."

Results are coming. After a historic Olympic bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Dominican Republic celebrated its first-ever U-12 Pan American Championship and launched a cooperation project between the professional winter league (LIDOM) and the new summer league.

When it comes to National Teams, the relation with Major League Baseball (MLB) is the key. The Dominican Republic is by far the country outside the United States which provides the most players to MLB organisations. The Dominican players on MLB opening day rosters were as many as 98.

"Professional players are willing to participate in international baseball," said Nina. "It was not like this before. Now everybody acknowledges the importance of competing internationally. Baseball is growing fast. People in the Dominican Republic would be surprised by the level of the European teams. In 20 years, we will see those National Teams compete at the same level of the best."

Pros are not always made available by their clubs.
"Overall, we have a good relation with MLB organisations," commented Nina. "But it's true that they don't always release their players for National Teams. I don't see why. Tournaments like the U-23 World Cup help players compete, get better, and they also help baseball. I believe that if MLB released every player, this would also help their marketing purposes. It's hard for me to understand why this doesn't happen."

"I love international baseball," Nina added. "When you participate in WBSC competitions, you can witness the level of play of other countries, their passion for the game. Baseball needs this. Hopefully, in the near future, MLB will be more supportive of WBSC tournaments."

Nina also shared a wish: "Hopefully, the Dominican Republic will earn the hosting rights of a WBSC event soon. We are looking for government support to renovate our venues."

FEDOBE is also interested in developing Baseball5.

"I think Baseball5 represents a great opportunity," commented Nina. "Our kids are used to playing a game we call plaquita in the streets. I'm confident they will adapt to Baseball5 pretty easily and give our country a fair chance to win."

Plaquita (or placa, literally plate) is a game that has similarities with baseball and cricket, the first bat-and-ball game the Dominicans learned in mid-18th century from British colonists.

Baseball was brought to the country in the 1870s by Cubans fleeing their island due to the Ten Year's War for independence from the Spanish Empire. The first professional teams were born in 1890.

The Dominican Republic won the 1948 Amateur World Series. They finished second in 1942, 1950 and 1952. They finished third in 1943 and 1969.

They wouldn't earn a baseball World Champion title until the World Baseball Classic in 2013.

The modern Dominican Baseball League was born as a summer league in 1951 and became a winter league beginning with the 1955-56 season.

Osvaldo Virgil Sr. was the first Dominican baseball player to make the Major Leagues, when he debuted in September 1956 for the New York Giants.

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