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Sports are a central part of the culture of the Dominican Republic, and are practiced in the whole territory since the native inhabitants were living in the island.
Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic today. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in Major League Baseball (MLB). Some of the Dominican players have been regarded as among the best in the game.
The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league, the Dominican Winter Baseball League, which runs its season from October to January. It comprises six teams: Águilas Cibaeñas (Cibao Eagles), Azucareros del Este (Eastern Sugar-makers), Estrellas Orientales (Eastern Stars), Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao Giants), Leones del Escogido (Chosen Lions), and Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers). Many MLB and minor league players play in the Dominican League during their own off-season.
The Dominican Republic has participated in the Baseball World Cup, winning one Gold (1948), three Silver (1942, 1950, 1952), and two Bronze (1943, 1969), placing it seventh, right after Puerto Rico's one Gold, four Silver, and four Bronze. (Cuba holds a record twenty-five Gold, two Silver and two Bronze.)
The National Federation of Basketball holds every year a professional league, the National Basketball League, LNB (Spanish: "Liga Nacional de Baloncesto"). The National Basketball Association (NBA) have some players from the Dominican Republic, such as:
Association football is also a popular sport in the Dominican Republic. The governing body is the Federación Dominicana de Fútbol. The Primera División de Republica Dominicana is the top division of the Federación Dominicana de Fútbol. There have been a couple of FIFA Goal Programme projects that have been designed to further improve the infrastructure and facilities in the country in recent years.
Boxing is an important sport, and the country has produced scores of world-class fighters and world champions, both professionals and amateurs, among them Carlos Teo Cruz, Leo Cruz, Julio César Green, Joan Guzmán, and Juan Carlos Payano.
Volleyball was introduced by the U.S. marines in 1916. The first international competition came in 1934 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with the Caribbean Volleyball Tournament. The most important goal for the women's team was winning the gold medal at the 2003 Panamerican Games. Starting from 2007, the Dominican Volleyball Federation holds the Dominican Volleyball League every year. It is a professional volleyball league with eight participating teams in both genders. The women's senior team is ranked 13th in the FIVB ranking and the men's senior team is ranked 38th. . Many Dominican play at international clubs in America, Europe and Asia, like Bethania de la Cruz, Cosiri Rodríguez, and Elvis Contreras.
The first Olympic participation was in 1964 with just one athlete, Alberto Torres de la Mota ("El Gringo" ) in Track & Field (100m). The first medallist was the boxer Pedro Julio Nolasco who won the bronze medal in the 1984 Olympic Games. The first gold medal, and second medal, came by the two-time world champion 400 m hurdles Félix Sánchez in the 2004 Olympic Games. The recent and more successful Olympiad, Beijing 2008, boxer Manuel Félix Díaz and the taekwondo practitioner Gabriel Mercedes won golden and silver medals respectively. The Dominican Republic Olympic Committee (DROC) is represented by its president Mr. Luis Mejía Oviedo.
There is a Dominican playing for the National Football League, Luis Castillo, defensive end for the San Diego Chargers. Castillo was the cover athlete for the Spanish language version of Madden NFL 08.
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