ORIGINS: “San Pedro de Macoris” by Christian Bell

In this ORIGINS, Christian Bell discusses the origin of “San Pedro de Macoris,” which was published in the vol. 7, issue 4, summer 2008 issue of Flashquake.

Baseball has been my favorite sport since I was a child. I’ve always been a geek about it, knowing the players, the teams, and the stats inside out, and it’s a fascination that I inherited from my father. Some of my earliest memories are attending Orioles baseball games at now-gone Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and getting splinters sitting on wooden bench seating.

So, since I’ve been a writer, I’ve always wanted to incorporate baseball into a story. In order for such a story to be compelling, I feel it has to have human interest to it, and it has to not be clichéd, an easy trap in which to fall. I’m sure there are compelling stories to be told about overpaid athletes with the God-given talent to play professional baseball and make lots of money and how their lives suck, but I’ll leave that to other writers and the movies. I have a strong connection to my father because of baseball, but the father-son baseball yarn feels like it’s been done to death. So, I needed something new.

When I’m writing stories, I’m often writing in themes/projects to keep myself focused. One such project involved stories that centered on geographical places real or imagined, and each story had the name of the location as its title (the stories range from cities such as Havana and Sarajevo to fictional locations such as Bedrock and Atlantis). San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic is well known in baseball circles as a hotbed of baseball talent (the place is often referred to as “The Cradle of Shortstops”). There are many major leaguers who hail from this town, with Sammy Sosa, who’s mentioned in the story, being the most prominent. So, I had the place for baseball—now I just needed a story.

At some point it dawned on me that the most interesting way to tell my baseball story would be through a set of fresh, unexpected eyes. So, I created Dolorita, a young woman, who can play baseball as well as any of the boys. But in a society such as the Dominican Republic, where male and female roles are more rigid than our society, and the fact that there aren’t any females in major league baseball, it’s easy to see that she faces many obstacles and her baseball story has a harsh ending.

A little bit of Internet research and personal speculation helped bring the people and the place to life. I’ve never been to the Dominican Republic but it seems to be a place where people live and breathe baseball, where the sport is much more part of the cultural fabric than it is in our country.

The name “Dolorita” literally means full of sorrows, and I felt it necessary that her name—her destiny—echoes throughout. Her mother is quick to remind her of it, and she ends up hating up her mother.

In the end, the story is about dashed dreams, and baseball is one of those things where most of us have our dreams dashed to some extent. The real world interferes, and most of us won’t be major league baseball players. Dolorita does her best to fight destiny but in the end it doesn’t work. I can imagine her resolving not to be her mother and telling her child one day that, yes, her mother played baseball once and was good.

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