For the truly hardcore baseball fan, getting through the off-season is a process aided by the Arizona Fall League in October/November, followed by winter league play starting up in other countries, lasting into December/January and carrying one almost right to the doorstep of pitchers and catchers reporting. Of the winter leagues, the jewel is LIDOM, the professional baseball league of the Dominican Republic. This year, with the pandemic keeping us at home and all of us chained to our screens anyway, is a great year to expand your baseball fandom to the world’s most concentrated incubator of talent for the sport. While you’ll miss out on a key part of the experience—the frenzied and loud fanbase at games, rivaled only by the KBO or NPB fans with their personalized chants and songs for each player—the cancellation of the minor-league season has infused an extraordinary level of talent into LIDOM play this season, the rare silver lining in the poo-cloud that is 2020. Here’s how to follow the league, including the Mariners past and present playing in LIDOM this season, and a hopefully handy guide for getting the most out of your winter ball experience, including how to follow each team via social media and a brief Spanish baseball dictionary for those of you brand-new to both the league and the language.
General facts about LIDOM:
- First and foremost: how to watch the games. DR Sports has a streaming package that is affordable (20 bucks for the whole season) and high quality, and the games are archived so even if you miss one, you can go back and watch at your leisure. You can also purchase a day pass for just a few bucks if you want to try out the service. You can also listen to the games for free using TuneIn and search for the team name, but not every game is available, and as a non-native Spanish speaker, I find it requires a lot more of my mental energy to track what’s happening in the game; watching the games helps reinforce what the announcers are saying, and as a bonus, you improve your Spanish if you’re a learner like me. (If you’re currently taking Spanish, see if you can submit this to your teachers for some kind of extra credit work, since watching just one game is literally hours of listening to a nonstop stream of Spanish. Literally. Hours. LIDOM games are long.) If you aren’t inclined to watch the games beginning to end, follow the LIDOM team of your choice on Twitter; the team accounts tweet frequently with game updates and highlight clips, and there’s that handy “translate tweet” button.
- Like its MLB counterpart, the LIDOM season has been shortened due to the pandemic. In 2020, the LIDOM regular season runs from November 15 - December 20. Also, while the league usually does playoffs in a Round Robin format among the top four teams, this year there will be a “mini-playoff” best-of-five series between fourth and fifth place if the two teams are separated by three games or fewer in the standings; the 1 seed will play the 4/5 seed and the 2 seed the 3 seed in best-of-seven game semifinals, and the finals will also be best of seven. The playoffs will wrap up no later than January 15.
- Thursdays are off-days.
- On weekdays, games generally start at 7 PM AST, which is 3 PM PT. However, the weather can impact game starts, so it’s best to check each team’s official Twitter account for exact game times and the latest changes. Weekends can be somewhat of a free-for-all, with games starting anywhere from 10 AM to 3 PM PT.
- LIDOM is also instituting the courtesy runner in extra innings rule we saw in MLB this year, although it only goes into effect at the start of the 12th inning, like it should.
- In a fun bit of duality, LIDOM rosters are both incredibly fixed and very fluid. For Dominican-born players, once they are drafted by a team (they become eligible after completing their first year in full-season pro ball) they belong to that team for the entirety of their playing career unless the team opts to trade or release them. Since MLB teams control the rights of their players, they can (and usually do) refuse permission for a young star to play in LIDOM, but that player generally still considers himself a part of the team that drafted him, and is listed on their official reserve list.
- Here’s the fluid part, though: over a typical season, rosters shift around a lot as players exit and enter the league. A team submits a 38-player roster every week, from which they can select 28 active players, so week-to-week the clubs can look very different. There is a limit to how many “imports,” or foreign players, a roster can have (10), so that causes more shuffling. Typically, as teams are eliminated, other teams are allowed to draft players off those teams, which is how the Mariners’ Eric Filia wound up playing for three different LIDOM clubs last season. I’m not sure how that will work with the contracted playoff format this season, though. Stay tuned.
The six LIDOM teams:
Águilas Cibaeñas - @AguilasCibaenas
Mariners connections: No current Mariners, but former Mariner MiLBer LHP Darío Álvarez; managed by ‘95 Mariner great Felix Fermin
Color scheme: Black and yellow
Hashtags/Nicknames: #ASeguirVolando (Keep Flying), Aguilucha (Fighting Eagles)
Estrellas Orientales - @EOBaseballClub
Mariners connections: Current Tacoma Rainier Eric Filia; current Mariner (but not currently playing for the Estrellas) José Marmolejos; Mariners-for-a-hot-minute Phillips Valdez, Gabby Guerrero, Junior Lake; Team VP is Mariners coach Manny Acta
Color scheme: Green, and this year some of the players are sporting black arm tape with flecks of silver glitter to look like stars, which I heartily endorse. MORE GLITTER IN BASEBALL, PLEASE. There’s also an occasional yellow accent in the uniforms, a vestige of an old partnership with the A’s.
Hashtags/Nicknames/Chants: “Somos de San Pedro” (in reference to the club’s location in San Pedro de Macorís, home of many baseball superstars including Robinson Canó); #Brillandoa110; Brillando, Estrellas (Shine, Stars!)
Gigantes del Cibao - @Gigantes_Cibao
Mariners connections: Recent waiver claim RHP Domingo Tapia; former Mariner MiLBer Aaron Northcraft; Mariner-for-a-minute and one-earringed no-buttons swagmaster José Siri
Color scheme: Formerly orange-and-black like those other Giants but has shifted to more of a crimson as their main color. Look, the team was founded in ‘96 and their official team account isn’t even verified, they’re a little behind.
Hashtags/Nicknames: #SomosGigantesPorTi, #ElCibaoEsGigante
Leones del Escogido - @EscogidoBBClub
Mariners connections: Mariners #2 prospect Julio Rodríguez, current Mariners MiLBer Luís Liberato, FERNANDO RODNEY
Color scheme: scarlet and black
Hashtags/Chants/Mottos: #LaTemporadaDeTodos, RUGE (Roar), #GenEscarlata, Duro De Matar (Hard to Kill)
Tigres del Licey - @TigresDelLicey
Mariners connections: Not much here other than Jack Z-era Mariner Welington Castillo.
Color scheme: blue and white. The blue Licey L is as iconic on the island as the NY on a Yankees hat. Do with that information as you will.
Hashtags/Nicknames: #ElGlorioso; fans are “Liceistas”
Toros del Este - @TorosdelEste
Mariners connections: Former Mariner Abraham Almonte; Spring training Mariner Alen Hanson. One-time Mariners prospect Freddy Peralta is on the reserve list, but not active.
Color scheme: black and orange
Hashtags/Nicknames: #Torolio. This account isn’t so much about hashtags as it is about sassy clapbacks; if you’re looking to follow a team account with some personality, Toros is the one.
Helpful Spanish baseball vocabulary:
If you’re worried about not being able to understand the games, don’t be. Conveniently, a lot of baseball terms are cognates: plato/plate, bola/ball, batear/to bat, cuenta/count (cuenta máxima/llena = full count), estadio/stadium, robear/to steal (a base). There are also plenty of loan words you’ll hear: balk, base, bullpen, HBP, home plate, strike, swing, ponche (like “punchy”) for strikeout. The hardest part is separating what is baseball commentary from what is an ad read, which happens after seemingly literally every batted ball event; you’ll recognize it after a while because a different announcer usually does the ad reads.
campo, terreno - field
episodio, entrada - inning
juego - game
pelotero - player (“pelota” is another word for a baseball, as is “bola,” although “bola” is used more in the figurative sense, like in a count, “dos bolas y dos strikes”)
bola mala, bola afuera/adentro/alta/baja - ball, ball outside, inside, high, low
bola rápida - fastball
cambio, curva - changeup, curve
efectividad (abbreviated EF in box scores) - ERA
lanzamiento, pitcheo - pitch
lanzamiento descontrolado - wild pitch
ponche, ponchado - strikeout
base por bolas, transferencia - walk, runner to first
bateador emergente - pinch-hitter
carrera, carrera anotada, carrera impulsada, remolcador - run, run scored, run batted in, run-scoring
círculo de espera - on-deck circle
falla con...(elevado, rodado) - make an out by flyout, groundout, etc.
imparable - hit
sencillo, doble, triple, cuadrangular - single, double, triple, home run (home run can also be jonrón, said with an “h” sound to approximate “home run”)
toque - bunt
atrapa - catch
campocorto - shortstop
deslizarse - to slide
elevado - flyout (“elevadito” - popout; bomba - deep fly)
jardín, jardinero - outfield, outfielder
tira - throw
receptor - catcher
rodado - grounder