BASEBALLPARKS.COM attends the 2007 Caribbean World Series
Even if you didn’t care for baseball, there is one baseball-related event that you would enjoy immensely. That event is the Caribbean World Series, held annually in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico or Venezuela (the event rotates). It pits the playoff champions of the winter leagues of those four countries.
If you love baseball, you should attend this at least once, because the quality of play is excellent. And with two games a day, you’ll have the chance to take in twelve games over the six-day event.
But even if you’re not crazy about baseball, you’ll still love this atmosphere. There are beautiful dancing girls and cheerleaders, great food, free concerts (both on a stage and impromptu ones springing up in the stands and on the concourses), and the fans are a sight to behold. And did I mention how beautiful the dancing girls are?
Join us now for a pictorial tour of Serie Del Caribe.
Estadio Roberto Clemente Walker
Puerto Rican officials decided to hold the 2007 World Series at Roberto Clemente Stadium rather than the larger Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which, you’ll recall, hosted a number of Montreal Expos games prior to the franchise’s permanent move to Washington. Using Clemente was an excellent idea for a number of reasons: it is a newer ballpark and is definitely aesthetically superior to Bithorn; the park successfully hosted the Series the last time it was in Puerto Rico four years ago; and perhaps most significantly, it meant the games would be played in the town of Carolina instead of in the congested madness of San Juan.
While Puerto Rico isn’t a huge island, it can definitely take a while to drive from one end to the other. Carolina, I’m happy to say, isn’t far from San Juan. In fact, the city limits abut the southern edge of the San Juan airport. Most of the visitors who come for the Series did indeed stay at hotels in San Juan.
The ballpark itself is very pleasant, and certainly pays tribute to its namesake, the much-revered Clemente, whose Hall Of Fame career started on the streets of Carolina — and ended a few miles away in a plane crash just off the northern coast of Puerto Rico. One example of the way he is honored at the stadium is the signage used to indicate the right- and left-field dimensions. In an intentional act, it is 321 feet down both foul lines. Clemente’s uniform number with the Pirates was 21, and the signs use outlined numerals for the “2” and the “1.”
This is an Astroturf playing surface, as is the case at almost all pro parks in Puerto Rico. The reason? Rain! It rains nearly every day here, and with a natural grass field, many rain delays would become postponed games.
Before the games even start
Long before the first pitch each day, the area outside the stadium is abuzz with activity. You knew, of course, that there’d be vendors hawking their wares! The biggest sellers aren’t caps or T-shirts like in the States. No, here the items most in demand — by far — are flags of the four countries battling it out inside.
Since the team buses unload along a sidewalk outside the park, there is ample opportunity for fans to snag an autograph of their favorite player. In the photo above, the Venezuelan team is unpacking its gear before heading into their clubhouse.
Roaming the concourse prior to the games were musicians and dancers. The costumes were colorful and exotic, and the rhythms were definitely Latin. Truly, the Caribbean Series is a show within a show, as highlighting the culture of the region is every bit as important as the baseball games themselves.
On the field
The action on the field is every bit as spirited as the fans in the stands. And the quality of the players is, well, impressive. Most are pros in the U.S. who use the offseason here to play for the local teams in their home countries. Some are Minor Leaguers, of course, but others are household names. The Dominican line-up, for instance, included Miguel Tejada (above left), Tony Batista and Nelson Cruz, a former Minor League Player of the Year for the Brewers who is now a budding star for the Rangers. Jose Lima was the team’s starting pitcher in Game 1.
Keep in mind that these games are not just exhibitions. Far from it! The teams really battle on the field, as pride in their native country is on display for all to see. The first day of the Series, for instance, the opening game was a war that lasted 18 innings. Despite the late hour, no one said, “Let’s call it a night and pick it up again tomorrow.” The opening ceremonies, which had always been planned for the time between the two games on Day 1, then ran a full hour, and the nightcap began at 11:30 p.m. That meant that the game, a 11-1 blowout of Mexico by host Puerto Rico, ended at 3:05 a.m. In other words, the time on the scoreboard in the above photo is indeed accurate. No, you don’t get short-changed at the Caribbean Series!
True, some fans at U.S. sporting events put on face paint and weird costumes. You have to admit, though, that this behavior is very much the exception rather than the rule. At the Caribbean Series, though, the national pride of the fans is on display in their behavior and attire. All of the photos above are just of Mexican fans. Those rooting for the other three countries were similarly adorned.
The game-day staff members at the Clemente Stadium were often entertaining themselves. The ushers — such as the one for our section shown above left — were a lot of fun, as they sang, danced and led cheers. However, policing the tops of the dugouts wasn’t exactly their highest priority. Over and over, fans for the team housed in that dugout would pour onto its roof, blocking the view of the fans like us. Hint: as tempting as it might sound, I don’t recommend buying seats right behind one of the dugouts — that is, if you want to be able to keep track of the action on the field. I am speaking from personal experience. It was fun, but it gets old if you’re trying to keep score.
More color and pageantry
Sportscasters love to talk of the “color and pageantry” at college football games. Those gridiron contests have nothing on the Caribbean World Series!
Very talented musicians roam the stands, serenading the fans between innings. The antics of the fans themselves provide endless enjoyment, as the flag waving is like nothing at sporting events in the U.S.
Yes, there are pretty girls
And I know you’ve been hoping I would provide some additional details about the lovely ladies I referenced in the intro to this article. About every other inning, the between-innings entertainment was provided by either cheerleaders or dancing girls. By a wide margin, the troupe of dancers that elicited the most attention from the male fans was the group sponsored by DirecTV (three of the six-member troupe are shown above left).
Were these young ladies talented dancers? Most definitely. Did they wear provocative costumes? Oh, yes they did. Were these señoritas beautiful? ¡Si!
The OTHER Super Bowl
The late game on Day Three of the Caribbean World Series happened to be played at exactly the same time as the NFL’s Super Bowl in Miami. With this battle of baseball royalty going on, the vast majority of the sports fans in Puerto Rico couldn’t have cared less about a football game going on a couple of hundred miles to the north. Instead, the island was absolutely on fire over the match-up between Puerto Rico and its next-door neighbor the Dominican Republic. The fans were positively going bonkers, singing and waving flags, long before the game started. And when it was over, with República Dominicana routing the locals 12-0, the fans of the winning team joined with the victorious players in storming the field and taking victory laps around the bases.
In this part of the world, this match-up is bigger than the Super Bowl! And you know what? Having been to both events, I think Serie Del Caribe is a lot more fun!