The most recent edition of The Miami New Times tells the story of the Nica League, which it describes as follows: "A mix of former pros, up-and-coming stars, and some of the best Latin baseball this side of Managua or Santo Domingo. It all comes together from morning until sunset weekends at Tamiami Park in West Dade and McMillan Park near Kendale Lakes. And it's amazing."
The weekend Nica League isn't to be confused with the formal Nica League - the Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League (LNBP)
The New Times story includes quotes from Orioles great Dennis Martinez, a Nica League alum whose son Ricky is now a regular.
Alfredo Simon also is a product of the Nica League. In fact, it's where the O's discovered him.
Youthful confidence aside, 23-year Major League veteran and future hall-of-famer Dennis Martinez knows talent when he sees it. "The Nicaraguan League is one of the elite leagues in all of Miami," says Martinez, one of only 18 pitchers to have thrown a perfect game and the winningest Hispanic pitcher in the Majors. "[The league] is pretty much between Division I and Division II [in college], but pitching-wise, it's better than Division II."
Martinez's 21-year-old son, Ricky, pitches and mans center field for first-place team Rivas. Last spring, he made only 12 appearances as a pitcher for Nova Southeastern University; he's attempting to reinvigorate his career by transferring and trying out for Florida International University, a Division I team.
"The league gives the opportunity to develop young players involved in high school and college," says the elder Martinez, now a pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals single-A affiliate in Jupiter. "Plus there are a lot of ex-professional players that play. It's a real good league."
Just a few years ago, Alfredo Simón was pitching in the Nica League to prepare for the Mexican pro league. The Baltimore Orioles saw him pitch in Mexico, signed him in September 2008, and gave him a start in the Major Leagues the same year.The movie "Sugar" comes to mind, which means I'll have the Spanish version of Hallelujah stuck in my head all day.
Simón is the rare ultimate success story, and most of the Nica League knows that. It's the fraternity that keeps them coming to a park where paracortos are shortstops, entradas are innings, and America's favorite pastime is béisbol.