Like Britain, Spain is loco for soccer. Tenerife and Gran Canaria have both played in the Spanish first division. After soccer comes basketball, many Spanish players play in the NBA. Way down on the list of popular sports comes baseball, often, but wrongly, seen by Europeans as an exclusively U.S. sport. In fact, it’s hugely popular throughout the Americas.
Back at the end of the 19th century, Spain banned the playing of baseball in their Cuban colony. The bats were seen as potential weapons in a country resisting the yoke of colonisation. Ironic that Cubans and returning colonists were the instigators in establishing the game in Spain then. It became very popular, but fell foul of the powerful combination of soccer + television coverage in the 1970s.
Not that you would imagine any lack of popularity if you visit the home ground of Tenerife’s own baseball team, the Tenerife Marlins, in Puerto de la Cruz. Fans may not be numerous, but they are vocal and passionate! The team founded in 1997, has an impressive record of winning their league seven times.
The Spanish Royal Federation of Baseball and Softball is divided into two divisions, and the Marlins play in the top one, the Division of Honour, which is made up of ten teams. Home games are played on Saturdays, and two games are played on each day. The season runs from March through to July.
Having enjoyed a baseball game on a U.S. visit, I decided to see if the Marlins measured up. Games in the U.S., it has to be said, are more than just a game. It’s a complete experience with as much junk food and beer as you can consume. It wasn’t quite like that at the Marlins game, but it was as much fun in its own way. Crunchy arepas took the place of hot dogs, but the beer flowed amongst those sitting in the shade outside the small kiosk as we arrived. These were the older guys, who play softball, we were told by the youngsters – to retorts which escaped my knowledge of the language!
I’d reread the rules the night before, so I understood enough to follow the game quite well. It’s relatively easy. Of course, we Brits know it’s like rounders, don’t we? The ground was easy to find, on the left, just past the Maritim Hotel. It was smaller than I imagined, with bleachers around the triangle and at the far end, where a lonely guy put up the scores by hand, the way I remember our village cricket team doing back in the 50s. Bleachers are those tiered seats, in this case concrete, and are named because they are usually in the sun (hence one is “bleached”). So make sure you have sun protection and a hat if you go.
The juniors are no slouches either. As I write, news comes in that they have been declared Junior Champions for 2015, so it looks as if baseball is a growth sport. In some ways there was the razzmatazz I’d seen in the U.S. and in others, it took me back to gentler times when sports were more about the game and less about big money. It’s well worth the trip from Costa Adeje or Los Cristianos. See you there?
Category : days out
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