By Coop Daley
There’s no doubt that baseball is a global game. Whether it’s the foreign talent that shines in Major League Baseball (MLB) or the passionate fan bases across the Pacific in Japan, baseball is a game that transcends borders and language. No matter where you are in the world, heading to the local ballpark to enjoy a game is almost always an international experience.
For a true baseball fan, however, sometimes just seeing any game isn’t enough. They want to attend games across the world, find the best leagues and talent to enjoy, and proudly tell their friends how they’ve seen every version of their beloved game that the world has to offer. After all, no better way to broaden your horizons than through baseball.
This list, part of a series detailing the best baseball havens in the world, aims to help the baseball fanatic by offering the best places to catch the game in Latin America: the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and even Cuba.
Estadio Tetelo Vargas
Imagine if you will, a paradise where shortstops grow like sugarcane and baseball passion runs like water. It exists. You just need to know where to look.
From Santo Domingo, head east, down a beautiful freeway with the Caribbean sea on your right and endless fields of sugar cane on your left; try not to get too mesmerized by the sights though, as the precarious motorcyclists and slow-moving trucks require your attention on the road. After 70 miles, you’ll reach your haven: San Pedro de Macoris, la cuna de campocortos, or the “cradle of shortstops.”
With a tall statue of a pitcher and catcher greeting you at the city’s entrance, baseball runs through the blood of all baseball fans here. The local team, Las Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican winter league (Liga Dominican del Béisbol, or LIDOM), isn’t the best or the most famous, but nothing beats taking in a game with their fans. The town has produced plenty of fantastic MLB talent too: Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, and Fernando Tatis Jr, to name a few.
For the sheer atmosphere of it all, this is a must-see for any baseball fan.
Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal:
Named after the first Dominican player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, this stadium is one of the most important and relevant in Dominican baseball. Located in Santo Domingo, this is the only stadium in the LIDOM to host two teams (Los Tigres del Licey and Los Leones del Escogido), and both have fantastic fanbases to boot.
The ballpark may only seat just over 11,000 people, but it offers an experience large and grandiose enough to impress any baseball fan. The grandstand is covered with a high sloping ceiling, shading the fans from the elements, but requires no pillars to keep it aloft, ensuring good sightlines for all.
In addition to the Dominican Winter League, this stadium is a frequent host of international matchups, hosting an MLB Spring Training game between the Twins and the Tigers in 2020, and nine Caribbean Series since 1972. For a big-time international baseball experience, this ballpark cannot be missed.
Granted, this might be a little difficult to get to, but if you find yourself in Cuba, this is an absolute must-see.
While it’s the second-biggest baseball stadium in the world, the stadium is not known for its impressive architecture, but rather its central role in baseball and history. The stadium serves as a mecca to Cuban baseball, with the decor highlighting Fidel Castro and his role in the upbringing of the sport in the country. Nowadays, it’s been used as a connecting point between the United States and Cuba, with the two countries squaring off here in 2016; Raul Castro and President Barack Obama sat in to watch the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cuban national team 4-1.
In addition to its place at the baseball-history crossroads, the stadium has highlighted some of the greatest talents to ever come from the country, including Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman, in front of some of the rowdiest fans in the Caribbean. It’s truly a sight to behold and experience for yourself, to take in years of history and sports in one amazing night.
Of course, you have to get there first.
The third-biggest stadium in Latin America and current home of the Sultans is one of the best places in the world to see a game. Built in 1990 to host Mexican League games, this 21,000 seat “palace” has seen MLB, the Pan-American games, and was even scheduled to host Michael Jackson, although the King of Pop canceled late due to illness.
Founded in 1925, the Mexican League is a Triple-A minor league with the unique distinction of being independent from MLB. The Sultanes de Monterrey (Monterrey Sultans) are one of the most successful teams in league history, winning the title ten times and its most recent in 2018. As a result, the Sultanes’ fanbase is one of the most passionate and dedicated in the world, similar to Cardinals or Giants fans in MLB.
Like the team, this stadium has a huge big league ambience, with fantastic sightlines from almost everywhere in the park and beautiful views of the sky in the outfield. It’s no wonder why MLB has hosted over ten games at the stadium, including the 1999 Opening Day and a combined no-hitter from the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Diego Padres on May 4, 2018. With recent renovations, this ballpark is one of the most up-to-date and well equipped in Latin America, making it a comfortable experience for anyone visiting.
With a fantastic history and an amazing ambience, this stadium is THE place to see a baseball game in Mexico.
Estadio Universitario Caracas
The baseball catedral of Venezuela. This stadium, built in 1951 to host the Bolivarian Sports Games, is one of the most important structures in a baseball-rich country, hosting numerous international games and future major leaguers.
These days, the stadium plays double hosting duty with Los Leones (Lions) del Caracas and Los Tiburones (Sharks) de la Guaria of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, another fantastic winter league in the Caribbean group. What’s more, the stadium has hosted numerous events in the world of baseball, including multiple Caribbean Series, Pan American Games, and a few MLB preseason games.
The ballpark itself is a hub in Venezuela’s capital, with a freeway passing behind home plate and a gorgeous view of the mountains beyond the outfield. Although the stadium only sits 20,000, the perfectly symmetrical view from the outfield bleachers and grandstands make it an intimate, yet major, baseball experience. It’s even hosted dozens of bands, including the Black Eyed Peas, Smash Mouth, and Aerosmith.
Unfortunately, it’s currently advised that Venezuela be avoided by travelers, due to the ongoing political crisis going on in the country. Hopefully someday this park will be safe to visit; Venezuela is a wonderful baseball country that has produced hundreds of MLB players, including recent stars such as Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, and Ronald Acuña, Jr. and retired legends such as Johan Santana, Luis Aparicio, Omar Vizquel, and Dave Concepción.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium
If you want to see baseball in Puerto Rico, there’s no better place than this. Built in 1962 and named after the first Puerto Rican MLB player, this ballpark is one of the best tributes to Puerto Rican baseball in the world. Currently home to the Cangrejeros de Santurce (the Crabbers), this stadium is the main béisbol-related attraction in the capital city of San Juan, and is absolutely dripping with passion for baseball, as the Crabbers’ fanbase is one of the rowdiest on the island.
Beyond the Crabbers, the ballpark also played host to the 1994-1995 Senadores de San Juan, AKA “Puerto Rico’s Dream Team.” With players like Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, Bernie Williams and Edgar Martinez out of a job during the ‘94 MLB strike, the All-Stars joined Los Senadores, creating one of the greatest teams to ever play in the region; the team cruised to a winning record and won the ‘95 Caribbean Series easily. The stadium has also hosted a number of different MLB teams, even becoming a temporary home of the Montreal Expos for 22 games in 2003, and hosted numerous games during the 2006, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.
In addition to baseball, the stadium has hosted a number of concerts and historic events, including showings from the Jackson 5 and Billy Joel, as well as numerous boxing and wrestling matches; it even hosted an outdoor NBA game in 1972. For its role in day-to-day San Juan, the stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
If you’re interested in a ballpark dripping with history, this is the place for you!
Estadio Isidoro (El Cholo) García
One of the most intimate ballparks in Puerto Rico, this home of Los Indios (Indians) de Mayaguez is a haven for up close, tight baseball viewing. With only 10,500 seats and none in the outfield, the stadium isn’t known for its features, but rather the experience it brings.
Rebuilt in 2007, the stadium gets its name from pitcher Isiodoro Garcia, who pitched a no-hitter in the final game of a Puerto Rican Professional League Championship; Garcia himself has a huge statue sitting outside. In addition to Garcia, the Indians are one of the most storied team in the PRBL, winning 18 league championships and two Caribbean series; the fans are passionate and love their team, singing several songs on their paths to victory.
The ballpark is also known as one of the best in Puerto Rico, as the intimate fan experience and structure allows for fantastic baseball viewing; the seating creeps into foul territory down the line, which requires fans to pay good attention to foul balls! The beautiful scenery along the way gets points in our book too, with beautiful views of the sea and sunset nearby.
It’s a wonderful, intimate experience for all baseball lovers. Just don’t expect any bleacher bums.
Honorable Mentions: Estadio Pedro Montañez and Estadio Jesús María Freire
These technically aren’t major professional stadiums, but should be noted for one important reason: Doble A. This Puerto Rican minor league is one of the best semipro leagues in the world, and everyone in Puerto Rico takes it incredibly seriously, with several teams across the island.
That being said, two stadiums take center stage.
Estadio Pedro Montañez, located in Cayey, gets our vote for one of the rowdiest fan bases on the island, and rightfully so; their hometown Toritos (Little Bulls) are the defending champions. The ballpark isn’t too big, but the intimate feeling among the crowd, along with the cool distinction of being elevated high above sea level, gives it a solid case for one of the best on the island.
Following that is Estadio Jesús María Freire, located in Cidro and home of the Bravos. This ballpark sits even higher than Cayey, and is home to the best Double A team in the world, as the Bravos have won a league best nine titles. If you can, try to catch a game between these two teams; the passion is unmatched.
For more ballpark lists, check out our website, where we’ve previously ranked Nippon Professional Baseball’s stadiums, as well as other international sites! Special thanks to mopupduty.com for the media! Check out their site for other “extra” baseball content.