Baseball players from the Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINCAN REPUBLIC. A young boy argues ball and strikes with a volunteer umpire during a practice game.A young boy argues balls and strikes with a volunteer umpire during a practice game.

Michael Hanson

When photographer Michael Hanson traveled to the Dominican Republic to document what would become his series about baseball in the Caribbean nation, he was struck by how ubiquitous the sport is there.

“Kids play sports everywhere in every country, ” Hanson wrote via email. “It just feels different in the Dominican Republic. It’s on every corner and it’s all day and all night and there aren’t other sports as distractions. I think that’s the difference between the United States and the Dominican Republic in my mind, and maybe that’s why the Dominican level of success in professional baseball is so high.”

SAN PEDRO de MACORIS, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Two teenagers opt out of watching the cattle and instead practice their swings. The cows graze on the town trash while one young man swings a board at a flying bottle cap.It certainly can’t hurt. Hanson spent a few weeks over two separate trips documenting players in the tiny country who are beginning to dominate the major leagues. Hanson, himself an all-American shortstop at Washington and Lee University and a player in the Atlanta Braves minor leagues, noted on his website that in 2011, three out of nine positions on the American League All-Stars were from the Dominican Republic.

SAN PEDRO de MACORIS, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. The Dominican Braves bow for a prayer after a game as dark clouds linger overhead. All these players have signed a professional contract with the Atlanta Braves but only the best will make the move to the US to play in the minor leagues.San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Two teenagers opt out of watching the cattle and instead practice their swings. The cows graze on the town trash while one young man swings a board at a flying bottle cap.

The Dominican Braves bow for a prayer after a game as dark clouds linger overhead. All these players have signed a professional contract with the Atlanta Braves, but only the best will make the move to the U.S. to play in the minor leagues.

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. A professional player waits for foul balls near the fence line that separates the local kids. Most young boys dream of playing for the professionals, where signing bonuses often exceed six figures.

BOCA CHICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. A professional player waits for foul balls near the fence line that separates the local kids. Most young boys dream of becoming a professional player where signing bonuses often exceed six figures. BOCA CHICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. A portrait of a top prospect, Raymel Flores, who at this time was anxiously awaiting his 16.5 birthday when he was eligible to sign with an MLB team. His tiny home has a tin roof and leaks water throughout the year. Here, he washes dishes with his mother. A few weeks after this image was taken, Raymel signed with the Boston Red Sox for USD$900,000. BOCA CHICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Players live in abandoned houses where they train all day with other prospects. Mosquito nets cover rotten mattresses in this training camp. Players hope to sign with a professional team after they turn 16.5. CABARATE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. A dad teaches his young son the correct batting position in a lush green yard in front of their modest home.
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