Baseball is the national spectator sport; many of the top American major leaguers have come from the DR, including Alex Rodríguez, Sammy Sosa and Pedro Martínez ( for a history of baseball in the DR). A professional winter season is held from mid-November through mid-February, after which the winners go on to compete in the Latin American Championship Series, which is held in the DR every four years (and next scheduled in the DR for 2012). The standard of play in these games is quite high; teams include the hottest up-and-coming Dominican kids along with veteran Dominican major leaguers and promising North American prospects sent here by their organization. Cities that boast professional teams are Santo Domingo (which has two), Santiago, San Pedro de Macorís, La Romana and Puerto Plata. These teams are often coached by former stars like Tony Peña or Juan Marichal.
Tickets are available at all venues on the night of the game (from both the box office and touts) for RD$40–150, depending on where you want to sit. Among the distractions in the stands, you’ll find live merengue bands blaring music between innings, dancing-concession salespeople and old men in the back of the bleachers making bets on every movement going on in the field. In addition to this professional season, amateur winter seasons take place in San Francisco de Macorís, San Juan de la Maguana, San Cristóbal and a few other towns. In the summer you can alternately check out the workouts and intramural play in the many major-league baseball camps, run by teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox and even Japan’s Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Surpassing baseball in history, if not popularity, cockfighting was brought over from Spain during the colonial era and is still largely considered the national “sport”. Fights are typically held in a two-tiered, circular venue called a club gallístico, and more informal events take place in backyards. Throughout the countryside you’ll see fighting roosters being carried, groomed and cooed at by starry-eyed owners who see them as a potential meal ticket; gambling is central to the sport. Watching the two birds peck at each other for ten minutes (sometimes killing one another but more often inflicting little damage) is less exciting than observing the rabid crowd. Fight preparations are also fascinating: the owners glue translucent brown claws onto the feet, once made of turtle shell but now more often plastic and then spew mouthfuls of water and oil over the feathers, making them more slippery and harder to claw through. The cocks are displayed to the crowd, bets are barked out in a flurry, the birds are let loose in the ring and the mayhem begins.