Beisbol is the National Pastime of Nicaragua

Upon hopping in a cab that took 10 minutes from San Jorge, where the ferry drops cars and people, to Rivas, the taxi man confirmed that there was indeed a Liga Nicaragüense de Beisbol Profesional (LNBP) game between Frente Sur Rivas and Matagalpa that particular evening.

It would be the north against the south, and the first time a night game was to be played under the lights in Rivas. The man was excited that I wanted to take in his national pastime. He assured me that I’d have no problem getting a ticket at game time.

I could hear the jubilant festivities from a neighborhood beyond as I strolled along and felt the late afternoon heat prepare to give way to dusk, which would bring on a perfect tropical-evening breeze.

I arrived to hear singing and cheering on the inside, while I needed to figure out how to get there. Dozens of food vendors with typical Nicaraguan street fare lined the outside front of the stadium selling Quesillos, the standard grilled beef, pork and chicken, maduros(sweet, fried plantains) and the ubiquitious cabbage that is referred to as ensanlada. There were chicharrones (fried pork rinds), dulces sweets, gaseosas (sodas) and other goodies.

I asked a vendor how much tickets cost. He said:

30” ($1.50) or15“($.75).

As he pointed at the two different parts of the stadium where the sections were,  I felt the tops of both sandaled feet being stung simultaneously.  I instinctively scooted from the sand up to the pavement and quickly tossed my sandals off.  I brushed a pile of tiny red ants off of each foot. I must have stepped on an anthill. The majority of the discomfort went away in seconds.

I walked up to where a man was letting people into the stadium and asked where I could get a ticket. He pointed to the ticket booths. There were two areas to get tickets; but, there was no order. As you can see, there were a bunch of guys fighting for position which would get the attention of the ticket seller who couldn’t be seen from my spot.

I looked at both booths to see which may be the best to pursue. Neither seemed less clustered than the other.  A man walked up as if he knew me, smiling:

Hola amigo. Falta diez cordobas para boleto.

I nonchalantly scattered and then quickly circled back towards both ticket booths. By then the chaos around them had gotten worse. There was no way I was ready to fight for an angle to buy a ticket. I felt that the task would be impossible me to accomplish, at least at that moment.

I walked back over to the man in charge of admitting people in. I looked at him, then  over at the senseless positioning efforts.  I muttered nicely to the man, saying something along the lines of:

There has to be another way.”

He motioned for me to come around and in. A boy before me handed him a can of coke in lieu of a ticket.  I wanted to laugh but couldn’t as I was the next one to be let in. I had 30 Cordobas to hand him but I thought it would look strange considering two police officers were now standing on either side of him.  Thus, I walked in for free. The man even pointed to the stairs, showing me where I needed to go.

There seemed to be far more people than seats. There were no ushers and no assigned seats. It was first come first serve.

People were selling what I thought were vuvuzelas but found out that in some Latin American countries people use cornetas which are very similar to the South African vuvuzela, which became a worldwide household name during the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

I was in the ultra-crowded section behind home plate on the second level. Volcán Concepción was visible across Lake Nicaragua, beyond the right field fence.

I was under the impression that the national anthem was playing. Some fans took it seriously while others couldn’t have cared less. The players stood in respect. Live instruments were being played. No one sang.  As soon as the anthem finished, live Salsa blared.

A stage of lights appeared in center field, reading:

Daniel 2011.”

Dusk passed quickly, as it always does in the tropics.  The music became louder. It seemed that the majority were not interessted in the political message. Many still cheered.

After the lights that honored the dictator went out, large bangs that sounded like M-80s deafened the air and produced huge clouds of smoke that faded with the wind and passed over the left-field foul line. A mild fireworks display followed.  The jubilation grew.

Next, a hefty-sized priest or father in great white drab appeared near the pitcher’s mound. He gave a speech about Jesus and God, and then said something along the lines of

Let there be light.

The light towers lit up for the first time. The people of the stadium rose into a frenzy.

More festivities took place, and seemed to drag. The crowd was loud and music was playing while a man on the field spoke into a microphone. There were many non players hanging out on the field. I couldn’t make sense of what was being said.

The players finally took the field and practiced a bit. Music still blared.  The same man was still talked into the microphone.  The crowd that seemed far beyond capacity didn’t stop cheering.

My area was getting mobbed. I envisioned being trampled on. I asked a vendor where the exit was and made my way towards it. I was ready to go downstairs and out when I noticed a security officer or policeman open a door for a couple of people.  This door led to a stairway going up. I asked him if I could get in. He was reluctant. I told him that this current state was impossible to deal with. He let a couple of others up then motioned for me to follow.

I was up at the top level seats where only a couple of hundred people hung out comfortably, compared to the thousands that overfilled the lower section I’d been in. I’ve never been good at estimating numers in a huge crowd. A man I spoke to later told me that there were 25,000  spectators at that game. I rounded it down to 20,000 at best.

The home team was now on the field. Everyone took their hats off and put their hands on their hearts for a moment of silence.

The first batter fisted the ump and catcher.  The game was underway.  After the first out was made, the roar of the crowd caused my ears to ring. Despite the instant tinnitus, witnessing this tropical passion was refreshing.

Loud music blared between innings. It sounded like a fast Latin pop. At the third and top level, I couldn’t get a seat but there was space with breathing room.

I stood and took notes. My thoughts were going much faster than I could write. Suddenly, there were ‘policia nacionales’ on either side of me. One short, police officer with bright white, straight teeth, and jet-black hair, was smiling at me. I explained that I was writing about the crowd’s passion. These were my words that easily slid out.

He motioned for me to come with him. He walked me over to where the media people were. He explained that I’d get a better view there and left me standing right behind the TV announcers. I don’t know why.

I moved away and started writing again. Almost immediately thereafter, the same short cop and a woman police officer were on either side of me. This time it hit me.  I thought: Writing at the stadium is an anomaly. Do they think that I’m a potential spy? No! Absolutely no way!

I put the pen in my pocket, closed the notebook, and didn’t open it up again.

For many innings , that cop would walk up and start little conversations with me.

How much did you pay for your ticket to come up here?”

Seisenta”(60) was the almost random number that rolled  from my tongue, although I had no idea what these seats cost as there were only a few who seemed able to afford it. The cop then asked a random guy next to us:

“What did you pay?”

Cien” (100).

He asked another man, the answer was the same. This is about $5. I would have paid it had I had any idea that the option existed.

I pondered: Was this low-paid, poverty-stricken policeman looking for a way to get money from me? I didn’t know. He was laughing a bit.

The roof decks were a small area and there were a good deal of cops.  This was probably because the Toña beer and Flor de Caña rum were flowing freely.

The game was tied at 0-0 for many innings, until the away team scored and the place went silent. Later, the crowd-energizing music blared when Frente Sur Rivas had a runner or more on base.  It even cranked while the ball was in play.

The short cop came back on many occasions.  One time he referred to the away team’s players saying:

Mal, mal.

Another time he pointed at trash on the ground and said

Mal, mal.

He pointed over to the trash can. I just looked at him and tacitly agreed.

Eventually I’d talk to rum-scented  Nicas who struck up conversations with me. I welcomed this as an interference from the irritating officer.

One man was very genuine, we talked of how the big leagues in the U.S. is the big dream of all of the players here, and how the leagues of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Japan, Panama and Venezuela were equal to this pro league in Nicaragua. I couldn’t disagree as it resembled profressional ball.

The same man then explained how tonight’s game marked the inauguration of the lights.  This was why the place was packed way beyond capacity. He told me that it was all thanks to Daniel.

Daniel gave us these lights so that we can have night games here in Rivas. Daniel is great. Thank you Daniel.”

Rivas eventually scored and the place erupted. In the eighth inning the score was tied one to one. I guessed that the policeman with the perfect teeth simply wanted to be my friend.  Although, I couldn’t help thinking: What if I’m wrong? What if this man is trying to find a reason make me pay him money?

For a moment I’d lost sight of the officer who’d been getting on my nerves.  Exhausted, I decided to walk to the stairwell.  I’d had my fill of baseball, strange cops the large, loud crowd.

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Game two of the series was a day game the next day.  I arrived during the fifth inning and managed to pay 30 Cordobas at the desolate ticket window.  It was still crowded but not over capacitated and way less crazy.  I took a few pictures that I’d like to share.

Like all the images that I post, if you like one, click on it to get a more pleasant view.

2 Responses to Beisbol is the National Pastime of Nicaragua

  1. earthdrifter says:

    AL: Thanks! Daniel will win the next election. There seems to be a mix as far as his real popularity though. From my obervations/conversations, my guess is that there’s roughly a 50/50 divide.

  2. Al says:

    I had no idea idea that ‘Daniel’ was so popular with the people of Nicaragua. I guess that people really want him to have a third term. Do you get the feeling that he has lot of popular support when you talk to people? Does it come up in conversations at all? Nice article. :-)

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