Nicaragua rivals the US in its passion for the pastime of baseball—I’ve watched games everywhere from dusty villages to lonely beaches to city alleys. The country is in the last week of the national league season, and the Chinandega Tigers and “El Boer” from Managua are facing off in a seven-game series for the championship. Nicaragua’s favorite righthander, Vicente Padilla, fresh from being signed to the Boston red Sox, is expected to pitch for Chinandega in tonight’s game, to break the tie of two games to two.
Meanwhile, local leagues provide grassroots games—Miraflor’s villages host partidos every Sunday during the season. The baseball field in La Pita features a dirt patch for home base and a cow-cropped outfield. Players hitch their horses to the barbed-wire fence when they arrive and local women sell enchiladas and soda to the spectators. Sometimes there’s an inspired (and often drunk) heckler to liven things up. The La Pita team meets once a week to practice, straight from the fields in rubber boots and jeans.
One day on the beach near León I stumbled onto a family game above the high-tide line, the big-bellied aunt pitching to her nephews, outfielders diving in the soft sand. She later invited me to join them the next day—unfortunately I was leaving and couldn’t take her up on it (not to mention my pitching arm is out of shape…)
Meanwhile kids improvise their equipment with sticks and balls made from rubber bands. The girls often play as fiercely as the boys—one year the best pitcher in the primary school in La Pita, Miraflor was a fifth grader who everyone clamored for.
In a community of coffee pickers in the mountains near Matagalpa the kids played in a narrow, pitted lane next to their school, hitting a hollow plastic ball with their hand. The bases were a broken-down toy car, the edge of a wooden building, and a cleft in the mud. Ten year-old Marlyne called the game, terms in English chanted in a Spanish accent, per tradition: “Tres out!… Foul!” then “¡A home! ¡A home!”