Since the late 19th century, the sport has bloomed, growing from a leisurely pastime to the world-renowned powerhouse of baseball champions it is today. While the Island’s seemingly endless blue skies and tropical temperatures make for a great place to have a winter league, many factors contributed to the meteoric rise of Puerto Rico’s official sport. 

Baseball game in Puerto Rico

Boricuas will often bring instruments like “palitos,” “güiros,” or “pleneros” to cheer on their favorite local baseball team. (Discover Puerto Rico.)

Baseball first arrived on the Island in the early 1890s via Cuban immigrants to the region, with it becoming more popular in the latter half of the decade and into the 20th century. As more and more boricuas started to participate in the sport, it became one of the major sporting events to dominate the Island’s athletic scene. Discover how Puerto Rico became a true force in the world of baseball, hitting it out of the park time and time again!

Baseball game in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a home-run destination for watching baseball games.

Origins of Baseball in Puerto Rico

It all started with one pitch — in the winter of 1898, two brand new baseball clubs faced off in San Juan's Santurce neighborhood, both excited to recreate a game they'd seen during their time in the United States. The Almendares and Borinquen teams hosted the Island's first organized baseball game, kicking off the next big thing in Puerto Rican sports. 

While it didn't catch on overnight, baseball's rise in popularity was steady. While on the Island, U.S. Army soldiers created their own baseball team, which the Almendares Baseball Club beat in the fall of 1900. After the war ended, baseball began to catch on even more across Puerto Rico, with towns putting together their teams and children learning the rules in school.

Iconic Sports Sites in Puerto Rico

Roberto Clemente in his dressing room.

During the course of his career, Roberto Clemente’s incredible milestones set a new bar in baseball. (Luis Ramos | Historic Archive El Nuevo Día.)

Clemente: The Great One

To honor the 50th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit, the Pittsburgh Pirates collaborated with Clemente's family and Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día to unveil an exclusive collection of unseen photographs encapsulating the essence of this Boricua baseball legend.

Visit the gallery

Aerial view of baseball field and beach.

Estadio Luis A. “Canena” Marquéz is home to the "Tiburones de Aguadilla" (Aguadilla Sharks).

In the years that followed, baseball’s popularity continued to grow on the Island and across the Caribbean. Professional baseball leagues comprising teams of African Americans began to come to Puerto Rico and play opposite local teams. In 1936, the Cincinnati Reds made the news by hosting their spring training in Puerto Rico, practicing against local talent during their stay. Two years later, the Liga Semi-Pro de Béisbol de Puerto Rico (LBSPR) was founded as a six-team semi-professional league, heralding the Island's beginning on the world's stage as a training ground for serious athletes. Later reborn as a professional league, the LBSPR became the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (LBPRC)  after Puerto Rico's own legendary player and was most recently known as the Puerto Rico Baseball League (PRBL).

Roberto Clemente paying baseball.

Roberto Clemente was the first Boricua and Latin American player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Luis Ramos | Historic Archive El Nuevo Día.)

How Baseball Became Popular in Puerto Rico

If you’re asking yourself: “Why is baseball popular in Puerto Rico?”, know that the answer leads back to identity. Once the public’s interest was piqued back in the early 1900s, it was only a matter of time before local teams began challenging and sometimes outperforming professional American ball players at every opportunity, leading to a growing sense of hometown pride. Local fans were devout, and when Puerto Rican native Roberto Clemente came on the scene with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, their pride was cemented. Seeing a local player go on to international fame proved that it was possible. His success inspired Island sports fans of all ages and played a massive role in why baseball is popular in Puerto Rico.

Get to know Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico’s Baseball Icon

Major League Moments In Puerto Rican Baseball

Once Puerto Rican players began making their mark on the major leagues, their roster was filled with historic baseball moments. Hiram Bithorn was the Island’s first player to hit a national league diamond, getting his start with the Chicago Cubs in 1942 (and eventually having a San Juan stadium named after him). From there, Puerto Rico hosted major league games, set records, and continually produced excellent players, eventually being included in the MLB draft in 1990. Past to present, the Island’s love of the game and intense athletic commitment have deemed it a sports authority with an extensive and impressive heritage.

Group of baseball players with dyed blonde hair celebrating.

In 2017, the Puerto Rico national baseball team was christened "Team Rubio" when all the players dyed their hair blonde. (Carlos Giusti | El Nuevo Día.)

Team Rubio

In 2017, the Puerto Rico national baseball team was on an explosive tear, charging through the fourth World Baseball Classic (WBC) undefeated. Only two of the original 16 teams represented moved on to the final round: the United States and Puerto Rico. In honor of the grand event, the team’s players had bleached their hair on a lark, but their rapid advance caused their hometown fans to do the same as a show of support. While Puerto Rico finished in the runner-up position, it was christened Team Rubio (or blond), and freshly bleached tresses became a wildly popular symbol of fan solidarity.

In 2023, Team Rubio participated in the WBC once again, and players and fans resumed the hair-bleaching tradition. This time, however, an impressive 192 men lightened their locks at a public event that broke the Guinness World record for most hair dyed and made for a historic baseball moment off the field.


The First Puerto Rican to Start a World Series Game

You can’t fully explore Puerto Rico’s historic baseball moments without mentioning famed Giants pitcher Rubén Gómez. With a 4.09 ERA in 1,454 innings pitched and a 76-86 career record, his major league stats speak for themselves, but those aren’t his only accomplishments. In 1954, Gómez pitched in a World Series game against the Cleveland Indians, making him the first Puerto Rican player to do so. While his performance alone was enough to make him a local legend, the Giants won that game, and Gómez was the first baseball player from Puerto Rico to receive a World Series Ring.

Puerto Rican baseball team the Dream Team.

The Senadores de San Juan (Senators of San Juan) won the 1995 Caribbean Series with a 6-0 record, earning them the nickname "Dream Team." (José Rodríguez | El Nuevo Día.)

1995 Dream Team

In the summer of 1994, a Major League Baseball strike halted the remainder of that season, canceling over 900 games, including the World Series. As the strike lingered into the postseason, many players were looking for a way to keep their skill set sharp outside formal practices (and maybe some delicious local eats to fuel their game), leading several of them right to the sunny skies and fertile ground of Puerto Rico.

As a result, the wildly successful Senadores de San Juan (Senators of San Juan) entered the 1995 Caribbean Series with a fully loaded roster, including big names like Bernie Williams and future Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Edgar Martínez. Unsurprisingly, the Senadores won the series, with Roberto Alomar named MVP. This major league team-up was famously known as the 1995 Dream Team. 

In 2020, the Caribbean Series returned to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico on the 25th anniversary of the Dream Team’s incredible win, and many of the players who made it happen had the privilege of throwing the first pitch.

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