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THIS STRIKE STINKS, SAY FANS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

SHARE THIS STRIKE STINKS, SAY FANS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Baseball is a religion in this Caribbean island country. The satellite dishes that rise in some of its poorest villages are there for one reason: to watch local heroes play in the major league ballparks of North America.

And the word from the land that produced the likes of Juan Marichal and Moises Alou is that the baseball strike stinks."The strike could affect the players because a lot of records are at stake," said Ronney Castro, 17, as his Los Duros of Dajabon finished off an 8-3 win over a visiting team from Monte Cristi, up on the coast.

"The players shouldn't be striking," added Jordany Jimenez, 18. "There are players from the Dominican Republic who are doing real well." He said that includes Montreal outfielder Moises Alou, a native of the neighborhood.

Though not nearly as famous as San Pedro de Macoris, the southern coastal town that has given the majors dozens of its finest players, this northwest region on the border with Haiti has furnished a few big names as well.

Ask the 17 and 18-year-old Los Duros players and they start rattling off names like Tony Pena of Cleveland, Felix Fermin of the Seattle Mariners, Junior Felix of Detroit and Rafael Belliard of Atlanta.

And nobody talks about major league baseball players from the Dajabon area without mentioning Marichal, the Hall of Famer with the sky-high kick who came from nearby Laguna Verde.

Baseball here is a game of love, played in raggedy uniforms and in front of peeling outfield walls. There are only two baseballs for this game against Monte Cristi, so two straight fouls hold up play until the balls can be retrieved.

"For a Dominican, baseball is like food," said Jose Rodriguez, a government employee sporting a Texas Rangers cap. "It's always been the king of sports. I'm terribly sad."