Want to play baseball or softball in Las Tablas? You can. Or you can just watch a game. Your choice. Beisbol (Baseball) is Panama’s favorite sport.
The Softball / Baseball Convivio
A charming custom here is called convivio, of which about 95 percent are for softball, the rest for baseball. There is no equivalent word in English, so the best way to “translate” it is to explain what happens.
First, someone or several someones decide to hold a convivio. They set a date ten days to two weeks or so out, and begin notifying everyone by phone, on FaceBook and by posting flyers at the supermercados (super markets) and the bus stations. They might also be raising money, as there could be a stadium fee (especially for a night game), the players would need liquid refreshment, etc.. Teams from different areas – Santo Domingo, Guarare, Carate, Peña Blanca, La Pasera, etc., etc. – hear about the convivio and show up in the appointed stadium at the appointed time.
Convivio games are often held on Sundays, and are well-attended by spectators as well as players. Local vendors sell food, people watch the game, drink beer and kick back after a hard work week.
Because the convivio is casually organized and so are the teams, the uniform situation is equally casual. The players may or may not be in uniform, and often you will see a number of different colors on the same team.
Want to play, but don’t know anyone?
Just go to the stadium where the convivio is being held, ask a player who a team manager is, then ask the manager if you can play. It will sometimes cost you a small fee – maybe $2 or so – to play.
Hey! The winning team may get a prize! For instance, the organizers might have collected $100 to $150 to share among the players of the winning team. Or the prize might be a pig. Or a cow.
If you are determined on baseball, not softball, there are convivios for that as well, just not as many.
Or Play in a League
And there are leagues. The organization for a baseball league — as well as the rules — is more strict than for softball. The leagues each have a president, a treasurer and a secretary. You must be a resident of the place for which you play. And to play, you must be invited. You can always apply – if there is no opening, you will not be admitted, but if there is, well… maybe. You can also play softball in a league. There are some rules, but for softball they don’t include where you are from. To join a league, go to a scheduled game, subscribe, pay the fee and wait for the coach to put you into the game.
Baseball / Softball Stadiums
There are more stadiums in this area than you might expect. For instance, in Carate there is a new stadium with lights for night games, and another, older one, for day games. There is Nuario Stadium, Valleriquito Stadium and there is a stadium in Cocal. In Las Tablas there is Tronosa Stadium (which also has lights for night games), San Isidro Stadium (on the right on the way to La Tisa) and the pro stadium, O. Sole. There may be others.
Speaking of professional baseball, as mentioned earlier, beisból is far and away the favorite sport in Panama, which would naturally develop some serious talent. The International Baseball Federation rank for the Panama national baseball team is ranked 14th in the world as of the 2013 games.
In the US, the Major Leagues are loaded with Panamanian players. Currently there are three who have made the big-time and become genuinely famous:
1. Mariano Rivera from Puerto Caimito in Chorrera, played for the Yankees,
2. Carlos Lee from Aguadulce in Cocle , plays for the Miami Martins and
3. Carlos “Calicho” Ruiz from Chiriqui who plays for the Phillips of Philidelphia.
Local Boy Makes Good
More importantly, we have a local boy who has made a name for himself as well. Initially recruited by the Atlanta Braves, Randall Enrique Delgado from Las Tablas currently plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks.