How did baseball become so popular in Panama?

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world. It is played in many countries and regions, but it is particularly popular in Panama. The history of baseball in Panama goes back more than a hundred years, and its popularity has only increased over time. This article will explore the history of baseball in Panama and how it has become so popular in the country.

Early History of Baseball in Panama

The earliest record of baseball in Panama dates back to the late 19th century. Initially, the game was played mainly by American sailors stationed in the country. The first organized baseball game in Panama took place in 1902, when the US Navy’s Atlantic Squadron faced off against a team of local players.

In the early 20th century, baseball gained popularity among the locals, mainly through the efforts of two brothers – Manolo and Rufo Herrera. The brothers were originally from Cuba, but they moved to Panama in the early 1900s. They were avid baseball players and fanatics, and they spread their love of the game throughout Panama.

The Role of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was an important factor in the development of baseball in Panama. The Canal Zone, where the Canal was built, had its own baseball league, which was composed of teams from the US military, as well as local teams. These teams played regularly, and the popularity of the sport grew among the local population.

The Canal Zone also had a professional baseball team, the Panama Canal All-Stars, which was formed in 1933. The team, which was composed of local players, participated in international tournaments and was even invited to the World Series in 1935. The team was ultimately disbanded in 1941 due to the outbreak of World War II, but it had already left a lasting legacy.

The Influence of Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball (MLB) has had a significant influence on the growth of baseball in Panama. In the 1950s, MLB teams began to visit Panama as part of their spring training. This gave local players the chance to learn from professional players and coaches and to observe their playing style.

In the 1960s, MLB teams began to recruit players from Panama, which further increased their interest in the sport. By the 1970s, there were several MLB players from Panama, including Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. This made baseball even more popular in the country, and it has remained popular to this day.

The Panama Professional Baseball League

The Panama Professional Baseball League (PPBL) was founded in 1946 and is now the country’s premier baseball league. The league is composed of six teams, all of which are based in Panama City. The teams play a regular season and a playoff series, with the winner being crowned the league champion.

The PPBL is widely regarded as one of the best baseball leagues in Central America. It has produced many talented players, including Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history.

The Role of Popular Culture

Popular culture has had a significant influence on the popularity of baseball in Panama. Baseball is widely featured in television, movies, and music, and it has become an important part of the country’s national identity. In addition, baseball is widely seen as an aspirational sport, and it is viewed as a way for people to achieve success.

The National Team

The Panama national baseball team has been a source of pride for the country. The team has had success in international competitions, including winning a bronze medal in the 1999 Pan-American Games and qualifying for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The team is made up of players from the PPBL, as well as players from other countries.

Baseball in Education

Baseball is also popular in the educational system in Panama. Many schools and universities have baseball teams, and there are also youth leagues and academies. This has given young people the opportunity to learn and play the sport, helping to spread its popularity even further.


Baseball is a beloved sport in Panama, and it has a long and rich history in the country. It has become popular through a combination of factors, including the influence of the US military, Major League Baseball, the Panama Canal, popular culture, and the success of the national team. Baseball is now firmly embedded in the national identity of Panama.

Baseball in Panama has become one of the most popular sports in the country, and it shows no signs of slowing down. It is a source of pride for the people of Panama and will continue to be for many years to come.