Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Can't Take the Baseball Out of Nicaragua!

Ugarte Stadium, Rivas, Nicaragua

Nicaraguans love their baseball!

Each state has a team in a national league. Up until yesterday, Rivas had been on an 8 win, 1 loss streak which has fired up people in town even more.

As an example of their dedication, the one loss they suffered (to Chontales) was 11 innings one day, suspended because of darkness and continued the next day for another 3 innings.

Nuts and Gum

We got to the stadium an hour and a half early, 8:30 AM on Sunday morning. On Sundays, each team plays a double header of two seven inning games against the same team. It saves on travel expenses.

Robert, David and I managed to get a three seats together high enough to be in the shade all day, but they were filling up fast! And with good reason, even though I was 50 feet from being in the sun, after 5 hours, the reflection from the field was still enough to get a sunburn (for me, the very white non-Nicaraguan)!

Bao for Sale

There aren't assigned seats, you just bought a ticket for about a dollar and sat or stood wherever you wanted, including the roof (you're not really supposed to sit there, but it's not very popular either, I saw a cop disperse a group there only once the whole time).

Watermelon for Sale

Nicaragua is sometimes a little behind the curve on technology, but this time they had not only one PA system, but two! Sometimes they took turns, sometimes they didn't, but what does it matter? People who really wanted an announcer all had little radios with a third person announcing anyway!

And for music there was the additional horn and drum neighborhood group playing in the corner.

Three announcers and three sources of music? Nothing is too good for Nicaraguan baseball!

Mangoes for Sale

If you can't tell from all the photos, I enjoyed the game, although that wasn't exactly my main focus.

Game food has a real presence, the vendors are always walking up and down the aisles (and right in front of you since all the stairs are filled with sitting people).

There's quesillos, tejada, ice cream, hot dogs, bao, watermelon, sliced mangoes with chili, nuts, gum, cigarettes, tostones with chili, bags of juice and water and more!

Baseball by Hand

The scoreboard is old-school with someone posting the numbers by hand, it shows just how directly sports language (and not just in baseball) comes to Nicaragua from the US. Even if you don't speak Spanish, I have no doubt you can understand the board below.

Old School Scoreboard

While there has been a lot of investment by Rivas in their stadium, they still try to save where they can, for example the plastic around the strike, ball and out lights to make them more visible are actually plastic measuring pitchers with the handles cut off.

A new mayor was elected last November and has promised to provide lights for the stadium so that it can be used at night starting in 2010. No one is holding their breath.

Creative Materials

This bottle of pills isn't the team mascot, it's the team sponsor. Take one and they will relax your brain, or at least that's the pitch. Whoever was inside the bottle must have taken one before they got in the costume because they slowly wandered around slightly bopping to the music alone in outfield between the two seven inning games.

Baseball Mascot?

So while I used to call baseball the great American pastime, take a look for yourself and try to remember the last time you were at a regular season game with such passionate fans!

The video is of the second game, third inning. Boer (the visiting team) is ahead 7 to 1. In this inning Rivas makes six runs. Unfortunately Boer gets another couple runs later to end the game making it two loses for Rivas on this day.

video

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