Baseball pervades every aspect of the Panamanian culture. As of 2019, Panama's National Baseball Team is rated 13th in the world. Their local professional baseball league is spectacular. Panama has a professional baseball league that runs from March to April (Beisbol Nacional). It has 12 teams and is known as the Liga Panameña de Beisbol (LPB). The country's most popular sport outside of baseball is soccer.
In terms of numbers playing baseball is widely accepted as the most popular sport in Panama after football (soccer). In 2018, some estimates put the number of baseball players in Panama at around 6,000. That makes it one of the largest sports in Panama besides football.
Besides being a popular pastime for many Panamanians, baseball has also been an important part of their history for several years now. The first official game was played in 1879 between the United States and Panama with America winning 2-1.
Through the years, baseball has become more and more popular in Panama with many famous players coming from here. Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente was a legendary hitter who played three seasons (1953-55) in the New York Yankees' organization. He is considered by many to be not only one of the best hitters but also one of the best all-around players ever to step up to the plate.
Panama's National Baseball Team competes in international tournaments. They are now the world's 12th rated baseball team. In the Americas, they are currently ranked 9th.
The Panamanian team was founded in 2001 when it entered its first World Baseball Classic tournament. Since then, it has been participating in every edition of the event, winning one silver medal and one bronze. It will be going for its second gold medal this year at the 2017 WBC in Japan.
Currently, there are two cities in Panama that have professional baseball teams: Panama City and San Francisco de Macoris. Both teams play in the Pacific League (Central). The only difference is that the San Francisco de Macoris Braves play in the American League while the Panama City Pirates play in the Southern League (Caribbean).
The MLB has had long-term contracts with both teams since their founding. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the current owners of the Panama City team while the San Diego Padres are responsible for the team from San Francisco de Macoris.
Both cities have small baseball cultures. The Panama City team plays in a 20,000-seat stadium while the San Francisco de Macoris Braves play in a 5,000-seat stadium.
Baseball is the most popular sport in Panama, followed by basketball and boxing. Baseball is the national sport of Panama, and four Panamanians have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Panama gained independence during the inaugural year of the Major League Baseball World Series. The country's name is often abbreviated to PAN.
Top 10 countries where baseball is popular.
United States of America - 4 million people play baseball
Canada - 1 million people play baseball
Mexico - 300,000 people play baseball
Japan - 100,000 people play baseball
China - 80,000 people play baseball
Korea - 70,000 people play baseball
Venezuela - 50,000 people play baseball
Panama - 40,000 people play baseball
Argentina - 30,000 people play baseball
Germany - 20,000 people play baseball
India - 10,000 people play baseball
Italy - 7,500 people play baseball
Australia - 3,000 people play baseball
The United States' impact in Panama is visible in the country's sports. Basketball is immensely popular, and there are regional teams as well as an international group. The Panamanian National Basketball Team has never qualified for the World Cup but did win the Central American Games in 1979.
There are three major professional basketball leagues in Panama: the Panamain Professional Basketball League (LPB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). The LPB was founded in 1949 and has two divisions (Apertura and Clausura). Each team plays a total of 36 games during the season: 18 home games and 18 away games. The NBA began operating in 1989 and has four teams in Panama: the Panamanian National Basketball Team, the Darlington Warriors, the San Antonio Stars, and the Washington Wizards. The CBA is a minor league that operates in parallel to the NBA; it has one team as well: the La Romana Rojos.
Panama is an absolute paradise for basketball fans! There are many professional teams, and even more amateur ones. The country's capital city is always filled with excitement when a game is being played. It's a shame the Panamanian National Basketball Team hasn't done any better at world tournaments...