Baseball is called “America’s Past Time” and although that may have been true many years ago, football has claimed the crown as America’s favorite sport.
There’s another country, one in Central America, where baseball reigns supreme.
Baseball, not soccer, is Nicaragua’s national sport and passion for the game runs deep across the country.
A local man watches and cheers for his friends participating in the game.
There are four professional teams in Nicaragua’s four largest cities. “Only four teams?” Yes, Nicaragua is a small country and these four teams cover most of the country. Yet, enthusiasm for the game is widespread and smaller communities are home to popular recreational leagues.
I was able to witness this in the small river town of El Castillo, located on the San Juan River in southeastern Nicaragua near the Costa Rican border. The community league games take place every Sunday during the spring and summer baseball season.
I’ve watched baseball games of all kinds from kids’ little league games, company softball matches, American minor and major league games, and even professional baseball games in Korea. There were obviously unique differences between each level of the sport, but the atmosphere at this local game blew me away.
These fans are passionate and you could feel it in the air.
A captivated audience.
There were some significant differences between games here in Nicaragua versus the ones I’ve seen all over the world. Baseball, let’s be honest, can be a little boring to watch. How do you spice it up and keep the crowd engaged? How about loud music and chants? Done. How about an entertaining play-by-play announcer that keeps the audience enthralled at every call, play, or hit? Done!
It’s amazing what these small, but impactful, changes can have on the enjoyment of the game.
A pitcher delivers a strike as it begins to rain.
The crowd hangs on every pitch, ball, strike, fly ball, and hit. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The announcer, combined with the music, brings people into the game. It enriches the overall experience. The audience also has no problem getting right behind the batters and offer their advice, and not all of it is completely sober.
The noise and distractions may difficult for the players, but I think they grow used to it. Or perhaps this is how they’ve always played and watched baseball, so the distractions do not even register with them.
An outfielder waits for the next batter between outs.
There were other noticeable quirks about the game here. This being a community game in Nicaragua, they don’t have the resources available that other leagues may have. The outfield was uneven, even dropping off severely in the deep outfield. Players shared equipment, including batting helmets. Once you hit the ball and made it safely to a base, you need to pass on the helmet to the next player.
A team discusses strategy while their teammate waits for the next pitch.
Baseball is such a draw here that the town of El Castillo built a small stadium for the games. Yes, it’s a bit dilapidated and the roof is attached via divine intervention, but that’s all part of the charm.
My recommendation is to not stand under that particular section of roof.
Spectators pay a small entrance fee to sit in the covered seats or you pay nothing to watch the game from behind the fence or from the outfield. Food, water, soda, and beer are also available for purchase.
A view from the cheap seats (free!). Two women take a break from cheering between innings as storm clouds draw near.
A baseball game in El Castillo is an event enjoyed by the entire community. Come out, pick a team to cheer for, and enjoy the show.
Let’s play ball!
Comments or Questions?
Want to know more about El Castillo, Nicaragua? A question about my camera? Or just a general comment? Leave it below and I’m happy to help.