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Baseball players in the Dominican Republic are like musicians — or, more recently, sprinters — in nearby Jamaica: so much talent for such a tiny island. Juan Marichal, David Ortiz, Robinson Canó, Sammy Sosa and Albert Pujols are from here. As of opening day 2015, Dominicans made up 83 of baseball’s 868 players. “If you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus,” Pedro Martinez, the Hall of Fame pitcher, once told reporters.
Baseball arrived on the island by sea in the 1860s, via Cubans fleeing the Ten Years’ War, according to “The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic” by Rob L. Ruck. By the 1930s, it had grown into a big-money sport where owners mined the country for talented youths whose parents often worked at sugar refineries. In 1937 a team, run in part by the dictator Rafael Trujillo, hired Negro League stars from the United States, including Satchel Paige. Mr. Trujillo built the first modern stadium, complete with lights, in the mid-’50s. That was when star Dominican players first graduated to the majors.
-New York Times