Selecting the All-Time Dominican Republic Team
The Dominican Republic has a proud tradition of sending talented baseball players to the States, with current stars such as Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols hailing from the Caribbean island nation.
A total of 563 players born in the Dominican Republic have made it to the majors to date with an astounding 128 active in the 2012 season. Nearly all the major league teams operate baseball training academies in the country, a tradition that has evolved to produce prospects that are more prepared for the cultural changes they will face when coming to the United States to play professional baseball.
Only eight states—California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas—have produced more major leaguers than the Dominican Republic, which is the second largest country in the Caribbean after Cuba. It is believed that Cuban immigrants first introduced the game of baseball to the island nation in the 1880s.
Seventy Dominican-born players have been named to the All-Star team, yet only one, Juan Marichal, has been elected to the Hall of Fame to date. Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero and Albert Pujols are likely to join their fellow countryman in the Hall someday.
Ozzie Virgil became the first player born in the Dominican Republic to play in the majors when he debuted for the New York Giants toward the end of the 1956 season. Virgil would go on to play nine seasons at seven different positions for five teams, but he collected just 174 career hits. Virgil would later make history by breaking the color barrier for the Detroit Tigers on June 6, 1958. At that point, the Red Sox were the only remaining team that had not yet integrated. Ozzie had five hits in his first home game for the Tigers on June 17 that year.
The first family of Dominican baseball is the Alou family, which sent brothers Felipe, Matty and Jesus to the majors. All three brothers played at least 15 seasons in the big leagues and combined to collect 5,094 lifetime hits, They all played outfield for the San Francisco Giants in 1963. Felipe Alou was a three-time All-Star who later managed his son, Moises Alou, and his nephew, Mel Rojas, while skippering the Montreal Expos. Matty Alou won the National League batting crown in 1966 with a .342 average and later won a World Series ring with the A’s in 1972, although he batted 1-for-24 in that Series.
An interesting stat about Jesus Alou is that he was successful on only 40 percent of his stolen base attempts (31-for-77). Jesus, the youngest of the Alou brothers, has served as the director of Dominican operations for the Red Sox for the past decade.
The biggest Dominican star is Pujols, the three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star who already has 475 career home runs. He also has the Rookie of the Year award, two Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers to his resume. Pujols’ .608 slugging percentage ranks fifth all-time and his 1.022 OPS is the sixth-best mark. Pujols is the easy choice for the All-Time Best Player from the Dominican Republic.
When Santo Domingo native Octavio Dotel appeared in a game with the Tigers in 2012 he became the first major leaguer to play for 13 different teams. He pitched in just one season for 10 teams, and a mere two seasons for two teams. His only extended stay was the five years he spent with the Houston Astros from 2000-2004. Dotel has never led the league in any pitching categories and never been an all-star, but he has compiled 109 saves in 752 appearances with an adjusted ERA of 121.
Also breaking ground was Omar Minaya, who became the first general manager of Latino heritage when he joined the Expos in 2002.
David Ortiz takes the honor of having the best nickname—Big Papi. With 401 home runs and eight All-Star selections, Big Papi is arguably the greatest designated hitter in the history of baseball. He led the American League with 54 home runs in 2006 and has been a steady rock in the Red Sox lineup for the past decade.
Following the format in my recently released book Baseball State by State, which features all-time teams of Major League and Negro League players by state of birth (plus Canada), I thought it would be fun to tackle a similar list for the Dominican Republic. I list the top selection for each position in bold, followed by honorable mention players (ranked in order). Players’ city of birth is listed in parentheses. As I do in the book, I also included the best baseball place to see, best nicknames, most unusual names, stats leaders, future stars and all-time best player.
All-Time Dominican Republic Team
Catcher-Tony Pena (Monte Cristi)
Also: Miguel Olivo (Villa Vasquez)
First base-Albert Pujols (Santo Domingo)
Also: Carlos Pena (Santo Domingo)
Second base-Robinson Cano (San Pedro de Macoris)
Also: Placido Polanco (Santo Domingo); Luis Castillo (San Pedro de Macoris); Juan Samuel (San Pedro de Macoris); Julian Javier (San Francisco de Macoris); Jose Vizcaino (San Cristobal); Damaso Garcia (Moca); Mariano Duncan (San Pedro de Macoris)
Third base-Adrian Beltre (Santo Domingo)
Also: Aramis Ramirez (Santo Domingo); Tony Batista (Puerto Plata); Pedro Feliz (Azua); Edwin Encarnacion (La Romana)
Shortstop-Miquel Tejeda (Bani)
Also: Tony Fernandez (San Pedro De Macoris); Julio Franco (San Pedro de Macoris); Jose Reyes (Villa Gonzalez); Rafael Furcal (Loma de Cabrera); Cristian Guzman (Santo Domingo); Alfredo Griffin (Santo Domingo); Hanley Ramirez (Samana); Rafael Ramirez (San Pedro De Macoris); Jose Offerman (San Pedro De Macoris); Jhonny Peralta (Santiago); Neifi Perez (Villa Mella)
Outfield-Vladimir Guerrero (Nizao Bani)
Outfield-Manny Ramirez (Santo Domingo)
Outfield-Sammy Sosa (San Pedro de Macoris)
Also: Cesar Cedeno (Santo Domingo); Alfonso Soriano (San Pedro de Macoris); Felipe Alou (Bajos de Haina); Pedro Guerrero (San Pedro De Macoris); George Bell (San Pedro De Macoris); Matty Alou (Bajos de Haina); Rico Carty (San Pedro De Macoris); Raul Mondesi (San Cristobal), Jose Guillen (San Cristobal); Luis Polonia (Santiago); Jesus Alou (Bajos de Haina); Jose Bautista (Santo Domingo); Cesar Geronimo (El Seibo); Juan Encarnacion (Las Matas de Farfan)
Designated hitter-David Ortiz (Santo Domingo)
Also: Geronimo Berroa (Santo Domingo)
Pinch hitter-Manny Mota (Santo Domingo)
Right handed starter-Pedro Martinez (Manoguayabo)
Also: Juan Marichal (Laguna Verde); Bartolo Colon (Altamira); Jose Rijo (San Critobal); Pedro Astacio (Hato Mayor del Rey)
Left handed starter-Wandy Rodriquez (Santiago Rodriquez)
Also: Odalis Perez (Las Matas Farfan); Francisco Liriano (San Cristobal)
Relief pitcher-Armando Benitez (Ramon Santana)
Also: Francisco Cordero (Santo Domingo); Jose Valverde (San Pedro de Macoris); Jose Mesa (Azua); Rafael Soriano (San Jose); Octavio Dotel (Santo Domingo); Fernando Rodney (Santo Domingo); Mel Rojas (Bajos de Haina); Carlos Marmol (Bonao); Antonio Alfonseca (La Romana); Damaso Marte (Santo Domingo); Alejandro Pena (Cambiaso); Elias Sosa (La Vega); Pedro Borbon (Mao); Hector Carrasco (San Pedro de Macoris); Alberto Reyes (San Cristobal); Felix Rodriquez (Monte Cristi); Guillermo Mota (San Pedro de Macoris); Julian Tavarez (Santiago)
Manager-Felipe Alou (Bajos de Haina)
Also: Manny Acta (San Pedro de Macoris); Tony Pena (Monte Cristi)
Best Baseball Place to See: Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo—Home of the Tigres de Licey, who have won 20 Dominican championships and 10 Caribbean Series titles. Tommy Lasorda managed the 1972-73 and 1973-74 teams to the Dominican league title.
Best Nickname: David “Big Papi” Ortiz
Other Nicknames: Antonio “The Octopus” Alfonseca; Geronimo “The Chief” Berroa; Vladimir “Vlad the Impaler” Guerrero; Jose “Lima Time” Lima; Jose “Joe Table” Mesa; Ivan “Super Nova”; Federico “Chi-Chi” Olivo; “Prince Albert” and “Phat Albert” Pujols; Manny “Manwood” Ramirez; Henry “Oh Henry!” Rodriquez; “Slammin’ Sammy” Sosa; Jose “Papa Grande” Valverde
Most Unusual Names: Al Alburquerque, Yhency Brazoban, Atahualpa Severino, Leyson Septimo
All-Time Leader in Games: Julio Franco, 2527
All-Time Leader in Average: Albert Pujols, .325 (still active)
All-Time Leader in Hits: Vladimir Guerrero, 2590
All-Time Leader in Home Runs: Sammy Sosa, 609
All-Time Leader in Stolen Bases: Cesar Cedeno, 550
All-Time Leader in RBI: Manny Ramirez, 1831
All-Time Leader in Wins: Juan Marichal, 243
All-Time Leader in Saves: Francisco Cordero, 329 (still active)
All-Time Leader in Strikeouts: Pedro Martinez, 3154
Future Stars: Starling Marte, Arodys Vizcaino, Michael Pineda
All-Time Best Player: Albert Pujols
Chris Jensen’s first book, Baseball State by State: Major and Negro League Players, Ballparks, Museums and Historical Sites, was published in 2012 by McFarland.