October 27, 2021 was a big day for baseball, and not just because the Braves and Astros played Game 2 of the World Series: that day was also opening day for LIDOM, the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League (often referred to colloquially as “winter ball”). LIDOM is an excellent way to keep live baseball in your life while the offseason drags on (and while we await a potential lockout on December 1), and it has a well-deserved reputation for being fun, boisterous, and very celebratory. Read on for a quick primer on LIDOM, the schedule, the teams, and players to look out for!
Why’s it called LIDOM? What’s their schedule like?
The Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League is known in Spanish as La Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana—hence, LIDOM by its Spanish acronym. The games are broadcast in Spanish, and the season runs from late October to mid-January, with the playoffs this year starting on December 19. The six teams first play a 50-game regular season before the four advancing playoff teams play an 18-game round robin postseason. The final championship series, coming right after the 18 games, is best-of-nine. The winner of LIDOM then advances to the annual Caribbean Series, playing against the top teams from Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.
LIDOM playoffs have a fun quirk that we don’t get to see in MLB: any player who does not make the four-team playoffs can be drafted by a playoff team to play for them for the rest of the postseason. Imagine if Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Shohei Ohtani could be drafted at the close of the regular season by the Yankees to help in their postseason push, while Vlad Jr., Jacob deGrom, and Bryce Harper went to the Giants. That’s essentially what LIDOM does every single season, and it’s as exciting as it sounds.
Do I need to know Spanish to enjoy the games? How do you read the scorebug?
Quick answer: Absolutely not, you do not need to know Spanish to enjoy the games! Baseball is fun in any language, and you don’t need to listen to the announcers to know what’s going on. However, if you’re interested in reading the scorebug or listening to the announcers, there are some tips and key words below.
As you might suspect, the words on the scorebug and other game graphics are in Spanish. Don’t fear, however, as it’s very easy to read and almost identical. The grid and graphics are the same, and instead of using “R H E” to signify runs, hits, and errors, the scorebug uses “C H E.” This stands for carreras, meaning runs; hits, which is exactly the same (and which you’ll hear the announcers say as well); and errores, which is also exactly what you think it is.
Many words—like hit, foul, and others—are used the same in the Spanish calls as they are in the English calls. But there are a few other words that might be helpful to know as you watch games if you’re not familiar with the language. The word cuenta means count, to refer to the number of balls and strikes. El jardín refers to the outfield, or yard translated more literally, and el bateador means the player. A homerun is a jonrón, and you can figure out what part of the inning, or entrada, the announcers are calling by listening for la alta del—the top of—or la baja del—the bottom of. Ventaja means advantage or lead, used most often when referring to a player or play giving the lead to a team. If you’re really trying to get into it and don’t know Spanish, it may also help to review Spanish single-digit numbers—they’re definitely used a lot!
What teams are playing?
- Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers) – Located out of Santo Domingo, this team is the oldest and tied for most successful in the league, historically, with 22 league wins and ten Caribbean Series wins. They share the Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo with the Leones del Escogido. The team is nicknamed “El Glorioso.”
- Leones del Escogido (Chosen Lions) – Escogido is also located out of Santo Domingo and play out of the same stadium as Licey, and they have 16 titles to their name. Luis Rojas, former Mets GM and new Yankees 3B Coach, managed them to their 2015 season championship. Their most successful manager was Felipe Alou, who managed the team to four championships and then went on to manage the Montreal Expos for nearly ten years immediately after.
- Águilas Cibaeñas (Cibaoan Eagles) – This team has 22 championship titles to its name, tying it with Licey, and has an additional six Caribbean Series wins, including the most recent series in 2021. The team has an intense rivalry with Licey, in part due to their similar successes at the league level and at the Caribbean Series.
- Gigantes del Cibao (Giants of Cibao) – This team has only won one championship, in 2015, but they are also the youngest team in the league, founded in 1996. Despite their youth, many MLB stars have played for them, including Nelson Cruz, Ketel Marte, and Jean Segura.
- Estrellas Orientales (Eastern Stars) – This team has four titles to their name, with a 51-year drought between their most recent two: it took them until 2019 to win their fourth title after last winning in 1968. They are currently managed by Fernando Tatis Sr., and his MVP-nominated son Fernando Tatis Jr. attended the team’s opening game on October 27 (the Estrellas won, 1-0).
- Toros del Este (Bulls of the East) – This team, the second youngest in LIDOM (founded in 1983), has won three titles. They won most recently in 2020, when they went on to win the Caribbean Series against the Venezuelan team Cardenales de Lara the month before most professional sports cancelled or postponed their seasons.
What do you mean by “very celebratory”?
Skits and dances like these are not uncommon in the locker rooms (and I highly recommend clicking on every one of those eight individual links, they’re pretty fun and one even stars Vlad Jr. in a fairly elaborate costume). Unlike MLB, which has a reputation for being very buttoned-up (and where breaking unspoken, arguably arbitrary rules can get you criticized—just ask Juan Soto and his shuffle), LIDOM teams and players show their passion for the game freely, including through fun bat flips. So far, the best post-game celebration I’ve seen is from the Tigres after they beat the Leones on Opening Day this year—it was Squid Game-themed, with a very elaborate set-up!
What players might I recognize in LIDOM from MLB?
Many current and aspiring MLB players travel to play in the Dominican Republic in the offseason to hone their skills, prove their worth, boost their contract price, or some combination of all three. Famous past players include Alex Rodríguez (Leones del Escogido), Charlie Blackmon (Toros del Este), Alfonso Soriano (Estrellas Orientales), Jean Segura (Gigantes del Cibao), and Mike Piazza (Tigres del Licey). This year, you might see a few of the below players:
- Fernando Rodney (Leones del Escogido) – He’s 44 years old and hasn’t played in the majors since the glorious 2019 World Series, but Rodney is still making his mark on the mound. He most recently played in the Mexican League with the Toros de Tijuana, where he helped them to their second league championship title in 2021 (and got the win in Game 5 of the seven game series).
- Albert Pujols (Leones del Escogido) – After the Dodgers lost the NLCS to the Braves, 42-year-old Pujols joined the Leones del Escogido, winning the game for his team in walk-off fashion in his November debut. This is the first time Pujols has played professional baseball in his home country, and it’s particularly special given that he used sell sandwiches with his mother and stepfather as a teen in Escogido’s home stadium, nearly thirty years ago.
- Hanley Ramírez (Tigres del Licey) – Like Rodney, Ramírez last played in MLB in 2019, for Cleveland. He was named an All-Star three times (2008, 2009, and 2010), won the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year, won the 2009 NL Batting Title, and won two Silver Slugger awards at SS (2008 and 2009).
- Robinson Canó (Estrellas Orientales) – New York Met Canó was suspended for the entirety of the 2021 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and he forfeit his $24 million salary as a result. He’s now with the Estrellas Orientales under the management of Tatis Sr.
How do I watch?
You can watch at MLB.TV if you’re a subscriber, and if not, they often stream free games for anyone to watch at no cost (there may also be other ways to watch, too). I plan on writing at least one other article about LIDOM and the standings as we head into the playoffs in late December, so you can also watch this space to keep updated!