Are you a fan of America’s pastime in Central America? Did you know that baseball in Central America is a thing, and in two countries, it’s the main sport? If you didn’t know this, well, now you do!
When people call baseball “America’s pastime”, they’re almost always thinking of America – aka the United States. Which is fine and as it should be. After all, there’s nothing more quintessentially American than baseball, is there?
The summer sunshine, the hotdogs, the history. There’s something magical about baseball and its place in American culture. But hold up a second.
Did you know that it’s not only the United States of America where baseball is popular? Did you know that if you look south of the border, you’ll also find another America in love with the game?
Yes, Latin America isn’t all about soccer – baseball is popular in many LatAm countries, too. In fact, for a good few LatAm countries, baseball is the number one sport.
Think Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. In all these countries kids grow dreaming of becoming baseball stars rather than soccer idols. Many of them actually make it, too. Some 20% of pros in Major League Baseball came from one of these four countries in 2021. And even countries like Mexico and Colombia, where soccer is far bigger, have players in Major League Baseball.
Baseball, in other words, is big in Latin America.
There’s history, too. The Havana Baseball Club in Cuba was founded in 1864. Baseball has been a thing in Mexico and Venezuela since the late 19th century, when both countries started their own leagues.
And baseball in Central America? Yes, it’s popular and has history, too.
As well as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the other countries mentioned, baseball is also big in Nicaragua and Panama. And by big, we mean massive. Both countries, despite the major rise of soccer, still have baseball as their main sports. That may change in the future, but for now at least, baseball rules in these two Central American countries.
Like the other countries we mentioned, Nicaragua and Panama have both had many players end up in the major leagues in the United States. This is a point of pride for both countries when this happens.
Today, though, we’re not looking at Nicaraguan and Panamanian baseball players in the majors. That’s another subject altogether, and one we may well visit someday. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the best professional baseball teams in Central America.
Your main interest in baseball could be the world series predictions every year, but if you’re a true enthusiast, you might want to know a little thing or two about other baseball cultures. If so, we hope this article helps.
Let’s get started.
Baseball in Nicaragua
Inaugurated in 1956, the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Nacional (LBPN) is Nicaragua’s professional league. It’s a small league, with only five teams from the cities of Chinandega, Esteli, León, Managua, and Rivas who play each other each year in November and December.
Outside of the LBPN, there’s also the main countrywide competition with teams from every department in Nicaragua. Called the Campeonato Nacional de Béisbol Superior Germán Pomares, this competition also includes the five main LBPN teams and runs from February to August. That means there’s pro baseball going on in Nicaragua for most of the year.
Leones de León
The Leones de León is one of the best baseball teams in Nicaragua. With 19 national championship titles, six LBPN crowns, plus the 2019 title in the now defunct Latin American Series, we’d also say they’re up there among the best in Central America. Maybe even Latin America.
The Leones play their home games at the Estadio Héroes y Mártires de Septiembre in León. They have a beautiful style of play and the crowd loves watching their games live. Whenever the Leones win something – which is a frequent occurance – the city goes wild in celebration. Nicaragua takes its baseball seriously, and the good people of León are as passionate about their team as you can get.
Tigres de Chinandega
The Tigres de Chinandega is another team competing in both competitions in Nicaragua. It’s a proud club, and one of Nicaragua’s newest teams. We love the Tigres because Chinandega holds a place in our hearts. It’s a great little town and also the hottest place in Central America. How these guys can play baseball in that heat is amazing to us.
Gigantes de Rivas
Another one of our favorite baseball teams in Nicaragua is the Gigantes de Rivas, playing out of Rivas in the south of the country. If you’re hanging out in the beach town of San Juan del Sur, one of Nicaragua’s main expat centers, it’s an easy and fun day out to go watch the Gigantes.
They have a wonderful crowd and their home games are beautiful to watch live.
Baseball in Panama
Panama is the other country in Central America with a professional baseball league. Probeis is a tiny league, made even tinier during the pandemic, when the Toros de Herrera folded, turning a four-team league into a three-team league.
The demise of the Toros de Herrera was especially shocking, seeing as they won the Caribbean Series in 2019. This series is an international baseball competition held each year featuring the league winners from the Colombian, Dominican, Mexican, Panamanian, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan professional leagues. The Toros played beautiful baseball.
Despite the tiny size of the Panamanian league and the problems caused by the pandemic, baseball in Panama remains popular and competitive. Everyone wants their team to play in the Caribbean series.
Outside Nicaragua and Panama, baseball has somewhat of a following elsewhere in Central America.
You won’t find professional leagues and baseball stadiums, but you will find a game, if you want to watch, and a team if you want to play. The large number of Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica make baseball popular in that country (head to Sabana Park in San Jose of a weekend to see what we mean), while you’ll also find the sport played in El Salvador and Honduras.
If you’re looking for baseball in Central America, you’ll find it at some level, no matter where you are.