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While it is thought by many that baseball was first introduced to the Dominican Republic by United States Army soldiers stationed there, it was actually its Caribbean neighbor, Cuba, which brought the sport to the shores of the country.

Although baseball was becoming very popular and widespread throughout Cuba in the early 1860s, the Ten Years War (1868-1878) forced many of Cuba's most passionate baseball fans to flee the country. Many of these individuals found solace on the shores of the Dominican Republic, where they attempted to introduce the sport to the island's natives in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

These efforts were very successful, and soon thereafter, organized games and tournaments were being held across the country. By 1921, the four teams (Tigers, Eastern Stars, Eagles and Lions of the Chosen One) -- which, today, are considered the founding teams of the Dominican league -- had all been created to establish the island's premier professional baseball league.

After taking control of the country in 1930 by means of a coup, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo took a keen interest in utilizing this professional league as a strong nationalist and political tool. He decided to merge the Tigers and the Lions into one team called the Trujillo Dragons for the 1937 season. While the merger was successful and the Dragons did win the championship that year, the inflation of salaries caused by Trujillo's actions crippled the league economically, forcing it to fold.

While professional baseball disappeared, amateur baseball on the island was nonetheless still flourishing. Despite a plane crash in 1948 that killed half the team, a determined Dominican Republic squad went on to dominate its international competition and took home its first amateur championship. Helped by this success, three years later the Dominican Winter Professional League was recreated with its original four teams. Today, after the addition of two more teams, Dominican's professional league features six teams, each of which plays a regular season schedule of 50 games. The top four regular season teams advance into a playoff round robin and the top two from that competition proceed to battle it out in a best of five championships. The victor of the Dominican league has done very well in the Caribbean World Series.

While Major League scouts watch very closely to look for the next star from the Dominican Republic, all 30 Major League Baseball clubs run their own academies on the island, attesting to the talent of so many of the natives playing there. Many of the country's players rank among the best in the world. On Major League Baseball's 2012 Opening Day, 95 of the 856 players on 25-man rosters and inactive lists -- 11.1% -- were born in the Dominican Republic, marking the highest total of any country outside the United States. Eleven participants in the 2011 All-Star Game were Dominican natives, the highest total of any country or territory outside the U.S.

Fun Facts

The Dominican Republic has produced four MVP Award winners. The winners include: Albert Pujols (N.L.: 2005, 2008, 2009); Vladimir Guerrero (A.L.: 2004); Miguel Tejada (A.L.: 2002); Sammy Sosa (N.L.: 1998).

The Dominican Republic has produced two Cy Young Award winners. The winners include: Bartolo Colon (A.L.: 2005) and Pedro Martinez (N.L.: 1997; A.L.: 1999, 2000).

The Dominican Republic has produced seven Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year winners. The winners include: Neftali Feliz (A.L.: 2010); Hanley Ramirez (N.L.: 2006); Angel Berroa (A.L.: 2003); Albert Pujols (N.L.: 2001); Rafael Furcal (N.L.: 2000); Raul Mondesi (N.L.: 1994); Alfredo Griffin (A.L.: 1979 co-winner).

Dominican pitchers to throw a no-hitter:
Ervin Santana, L.A. Angels, July 27, 2011
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins, May 3, 2011
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies, April 17, 2010
Jose Jimenez, St. Louis Cardinals, June 25, 1999
Ramon Martinez, L.A. Dodgers, July 14, 1995
Juan Marichal, San Francisco Giants, June 15, 1963