You Won’t Care if You Never Come Back!

Take me out to the ballgame
Take me out to the crowd
Peanuts and popcorn and cracker jacks
I don’t care if I ever come back!

Welcome to the National Pastime.

The crack of the bat.

The smack of the ball.

The tip of the hat.

The thrill of it all.

There is nothing quite like whiling away the hours slouched back in a wood slat seat under the summer sun or in the warm glow of stadium lights, munching on a chili dog and watching the Boys of Summer round the bases and run up the score.

It’s nearly every boy’s undying dream to tag that ball and round those bases.

And every man’s fondest memory of the days when he scored the winning run… snagged the distant fly… or became the toast of the town for pitching the perfect game.

Everybody has his or her own idea of where they would like to spend eternity.

And for me, it is back on the hard clay infield of Baltimore’s Roosevelt Park, crouched down at shortstop, flexing my Rawlings deep-pocket ball glove, smelling the leather, backing the pitcher, and taunting the batter.

Or maybe sitting in the bleachers at Memorial Stadium, gazing out over the Field of Dreams, imagining the day when it was me instead of Brooks at third and my best friend Winky Dink crouched behind the plate instead of “Old Scrap Iron,” Clint Courtney.

So, welcome to the National Pastime…

But, oh, make sure to bring along your Spanish dictionary this time around if you want to read the program and mark the scorecard – because today’s game is at Estadio Dennis Martinez – that’s right, in beautiful downtown Managua, Nicaragua!

You see, beisbol is Nicaragua’s National Pastime. Has been nearly since its introduction into the country in the 1880s by an American businessman named Albert Addlesberg. The first 'official' game took place in 1891 between Managua and Granada. And in the early part of the 20th Century, US Marines stationed in Nicaragua spread it across the country.

Now, baseball is played on every sandlot nationwide. And in beautiful, major league ballparks coast to coast.

And remember, in Nicaragua, the summer is endless – so you can take in the game of your choice day in and day out twelve months a year!

Here’s how one of the residents at Nicaragua’s beautiful Gran Pacifica resident resort community described the action in her play by play:

They play two seasons per year, January to August and September to December. Local Municipalities ‘inaugurate’ each season with all the teams from the league, walking up Main Street and entering the ballpark to the applause from the fans, officials, and of course, blaring music! There are 10 teams playing in this league, all from mostly small towns.

Baseball is treated as a Sunday tradition in Nicaragua. You will see elderly men and women watching, children playing and climbing trees, the ice cream man ringing his bell, and vendors selling beer. How lovely to be able to go watch a game, eat lunch, and have a beer for $5.00. Then, of course, an ice cream sundae is a must for only $.50.

It was amazing to be able to sit so close to the action and visit with the players.

The top professional league in Nicaragua – the Liga de Baeibol Profesional Nacional -- has five teams -- Indios del Bóer (Managua), Tigres del Chinandega, Gigantes de Rivas Leones de León, and Tren del Norte (Esteli). They are mostly located along the Pacific Coast. And the ballparks are modern and spacious – with the tickets remarkably low priced.

How low priced?

Well, let me put it this way: When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore City, my buddies and I could buy a bleacher seat at Memorial Stadium for 75 cents. And that’s about what a box seat ticket costs at an LBPN ballpark in Nicaragua today!

Compare that with the cost of bleacher seats at Baltimore’s Camden Yards today. Can you say “Fifteen dollars”? That’s right – twenty times what they cost when I was a kid.

Do you think me and Winky Dink and the Avenue Gang could afford that today?

And, oh, by the way, since the $15 bleacher seats at Camden Yards are in the “Standing Section” (that’s right, no seats – you’re forced to stand throughout the entire game!), do you think we’d even want to bother?

Not on your life – not now, not ever!

Sadly, street urchins can no longer afford to go to a baseball game in the US now, and neither can their country cousins. Which helps explain why sandlot ballparks lie dormant all over America now. And major league baseball attendance is now at a 37-year low.

But not so in Nicaragua!

The ballparks are packed. The spirits are high. And the place is rocking!

“But… but… but,” I hear the naysayers yammer, “the quality of the play is not as good there as it is here.”

Bunkum.

Baseball is baseball is baseball.

A homerun still has to clear a 300-plus foot fence in Nicaragua just as it does in the US. A 90-mile-per-hours fastball still takes four-tenths of a second to cover the 60 feet six inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate in Nica as in the US.

And a no-hitter is a no-hitter is a no-hitter whether it’s thrown by Santos Jarquín of the Indios del Bóer (my favorite Nicaraguan team) or Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers.

How good are the Nicaraguan major league players:

Well, in the 2021 season, Bryan Torres had a 0.81 ERA. Alay Largo hit .424 – falling just three points short of Jonel Pacheco’s .427 in 2016  (move over Ted Williams!). And it was a Nicaraguan by the name of Dennis Martinez (yep, like the estadio), who had  245 US MLB wins and pitched one of the few perfect games in baseball history.

So why am I sharing all of this with you?

Because I want you to know that when you make your move to the good life at a great price south of the US border, the old axiom will hold steadfast true: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The things you loved about the US – including baseball -- you will find in Nicaragua… or Panama… or Costa Rica… or anywhere else you choose to set down your roots and call your home.

And the things you don’t love now about the US – things like just wanting to take in a ballgame and not wanting to have to endure pampered, overpaid players desecrating the flag and extolling BLM terrorist groups -- well, kiss them goodbye… Because in countries like Nicaragua, a game is still a game – and not a leftwing political movement!

Sound refreshing – and fun?

You bet it is!

So, grab your “peanuts and popcorn and crackerjacks” (or, maybe, your tortillas, tacos, and chicharrones

And head out to the old ballgame…

Because I have a distinct feeling that you won’t care if you never come back!
Baseball field by Tim Gouw is licensed under unsplash.com
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