Probably, and many fans are at a crossroads. The rumors are officially circulating that the All-Star Game between the stars of LIDOM and LBPRC, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico’s Winter Leagues could be taking place at Loan Depot Park in Miami this December. This combined All-Star Game was a huge success when it was held in the Dominican Republic in 2023. Following the overwhelming success of the Caribbean Series currently being held in Miami, it is not hard to imagine that it could become a reality and that the Caribbean Series would find themselves a frequent visitor in Miami. It comes as no surprise, and the fact that the Series has been announced to be back in Miami in the future indicates that it has already surpassed economic goals.
Part of me was excited at the news, as I had just come back from covering the Caribbean Series at Loan Depot Park, and I saw the fans’ excitement. The other part of me is sad because a great opportunity for economic development is potentially being taken away from a Caribbean city that could use this event to inject health into its economy. Speaking to fellow writers and fans, I found out I am not the only one at this crossroads. So where do we meet? Do I get excited? Do I protest in disgust? Should I retire my allegiance to winter baseball completely?
When the Caribbean Series was first announced to be in the city of Miami for 2024, I was happy and every fan to whom I spoke was excited as well. I could imagine the crowds—the excitement. The World Baseball Classic was an excellent preamble, but if you have been to both, you know the Caribbean Series would bring out a different kind of fan in all of us. I immediately thought of my childhood team Leones de Ponce playing in front of 15,000 fans. Chants exclaiming: «Ponce AHI», «Ponce yo voy a ti». I immediately got transported to my childhood in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and all those Sunday double headers with my dad. I was all for it.
Those dreams of our childhood team playing in front of a crowd of 35,000 became true to Criollos, Tiburones, Tigres, Naranjeros, and Federales fans who saw their team play in a packed big-league stadium. Those clubs also experienced overwhelming support from other team fan bases. I saw things I never thought I would see. I witnessed an Aguilucho (a fan of Aguilas Cibaenas) and a Liceista (a fan of Licey) embrace in a hug when Licey, representing the Dominican Republic, returned to win a game in the eighth inning. I saw a Cangrejeros de Santurce owner and chairman, Raymond Ayala (formerly known as Daddy Yankee), cheering for Criollos de Caguas while celebrating his birthday at the stadium. I saw Yaquis, Mochis, Venados, and Naranjeros all cheer together as the team representing their league finally figured out how to win after three tries in a disappointing series.
But the most impactful experiences from fans I saw and heard in the Caribbean Series were stories that are all too common to us. Many fans of teams from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela saw Winter baseball for the first time in decades. That, of course, is not a product of their lack of fandom but a product of a sad reality that millions must embrace: having to leave home. For thousands in the stadium during the Caribbean Series in Miami, this was a chance to feel «back home.» I left Puerto Rico in 2002. I spoke to others who had left their respective countries much longer, and this was the first time they had seen Caribbean baseball. «I never thought I would see Tiburones again,» exclaimed Alfredo Contreras, who, like many, had to leave his beloved Venezuela in recent years due to political issues. Alfredo and his family came down to Miami from Cleveland, Ohio, to cheer for their beloved Tiburones. Because the Series was in Miami, Alfredo and thousands of others got to cheer once again «un hit» (clap clap)… «un hit» (clap, clap) and «eeeeeeeeeee La Guaira» from the packed stands of Loan Depot Park. Thousands of Licey fans packed the stadium on Friday with their fingers in the shape of an L, which in the United States is a despective of the word «loser,» but in Licey, that is their rally symbol that makes the shape of the first letter of their team Licey. The same is true for many Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Panamanians, and Nicaraguans who went back «home» during the Series in Miami since the unfair aspects of life forced them to leave their beloved birthplaces. Maria Canales had to flee Puerto Rico after the 2020 earthquakes in southern Puerto Rico affected their area. «We are from Lajas, which means we would rather have seen Indios de Mayaguez here, but today we are all Criollos,» she exclaimed. «I never thought I would see winter baseball with 35,000 people and my family», she concluded. Families drove together from cities like Raleigh, Chicago, and New York to glimpse Caribbean baseball again. Fathers and sons went back to see Caribbean baseball again.
Stories like the one above are what the Caribbean Series is all about. But am I naïve enough to think that stories like the ones above are the main reason why the Series, the LIDOM/LBPRC All-Star game, and other Caribbean baseball events are all potentially coming back to Miami? No. I wish I were, but I am not. The main reason that the Caribbean Series and all the rest of the Caribbean baseball events are coming back to Miami is because they generate money. And that is a reality just as sad as the ones that have produced many refugees. And this is where a lot of fans are. «Do I support the Series because at the end of the day, all this economic development must do well for a city like Santo Domingo, Carolina, or Panama City?» are thoughts that come to many fans. My idea was «Maybe events like these should be held in Rod Carew Stadium in Panama and help with generating more and more interest in the league domestic league, as Christian Bethancourt, Ivan Herrera, and other MLB Panama talent have shown great support for the league.» Another thought I had was «maybe it should be held at either Roberto Clemente Stadium in Puerto Rico or Nicaragua.» The way Nicaragua fans supported the Series in Miami, seeing an exhibition between Puerto Rico and Dominican All Stars in Managua at Clemente Stadium would do wonders for that league. We can imagine a million scenarios.
So, where do we land? Do we support it? Not support? We must look at the root of our personal value systems to find that out, and that, sadly, is something that one thousand words from a stranger cannot sort out. Most personal value systems and religions balk at the thought of greed and excessive love of money. But they also think highly of the love and family excitement I witnessed produced by the Series in Miami. So again, where do we land? Wherever we land, we must ensure that one thing and one thing alone wins, and that is baseball. Whether the Series and other events are held in Miami, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Managua, Panama City, or Mexicali, we, as supporters of the Series and other Caribbean baseball events, must meet our values in the middle and ensure that baseball wins and the events are a success. We must do what we can to support the local Winter leagues. If you live there, go to the stadium. If you do not live there, go when you visit. If you do not visit often, support your home country’s Winter series by following it through any means congruent with your personal value system. All the Winter leagues have services available to be watched and enjoyed if you don’t live there. Support those. Support writers and content producers who bring the incidences of the league to you. Any rational value system to which you subscribe must have a way to put you at peace with watching a baseball game and supporting a baseball league, or you may need to inject some rationality into your system. In the end, it is just a game. We happen to be in love with it.