This is part of the 5 Cool History Facts About The D.R. on our show Repeating The Past. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, do check it out first!
In other words, it’s in the DNA.
From 1800 to 1920 the DR saw a massive influx of non-Hispanic Afro-Caribbean immigrants from other Caribbean islands that were invited to work on the sugarcane plantations, mostly in the San Pedro de Macoris area. They brought with them their culture that had strong British roots: music, the English language, their Anglican religion, English last names… and cricket. They became known colloquially as ‘cocolos’.
While baseball was known and played, especially the eastern part of the island around San Pedro de Macoris enjoyed a mostly-cricket fandom due to the large Cocolo population.
However, in 1916 the US occupied the island to protect their interests, and took over the government, the military, the police and especially customs and immigration. The influx of immigrants was stopped for anyone not Caucasians, and the occupation forces began to ‘Americanize’ much in the country. Cricket too fell victim to this.
By the 1920s the plantation owners — mostly Americans — bribed the good cricket-players to play baseball instead and were willing to support baseball teams — but not cricket teams.
So cricket died. Talented cricket players turned to baseball since there was no money to be made in cricket. Dominican dictator Trujillo also encouraged local baseball and from the 1950s onwards the game flourished on the island. Eventually US Major League Teams began setting up their own training camps and scouts traveled the island to find more players, and the majority of the really good ones are those of Afro-Caribbean, cricket-playing roots.