While baseball usually takes a backseat in the gringo consciousness after the World Series ends, for Latin American and Latino fans the winter season is just heating up. The annual Serie del Caribe tournament brings the heavyweights of Latin American baseball – Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela – to face off for the chance at regional glory. This year, the tournament will take place from February 2-8 in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the championship teams from each country’s winter leagues will play in the Estadio Panamericano. For those watching in the US, you can catch all the action on ESPN Deportes.
“It is the World Series for Latinos and we call it the ‘The Little World Series,'” explained Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit, a pitcher for the Dominican Republic in an interview with ESPN. “It’s different because there are four teams and four countries. When we go to our country we play to give the chance for the fans to see us play but we also go to represent our families and our pride.”
In his book Playing America’s Beautiful Game, Adrian Burgos explains that baseball’s popularity in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean arose from cultural exchange, commercial activity, and labor migration before 1898. North Americans like A.G. Spalding saw baseball as a tool that formed part of a cultural project that came with US colonial presence in the Caribbean and Pacific. But despite imperial projects of benevolent assimilation, Latin Americans have historically used the sport to claim community and fight for racial equality as well as self-author new meanings to popular cultural baseball phrases. These phrases have been adapted to everyday expressions that now get used beyond the playing fields. In fact, today they’re so integrated into the way we talk that you may not even realize some of these expressions originated on the baseball diamond.
In celebration of this year’s Serie del Caribe, we teamed up with ESPN Deportes to break down some of the everyday slang phrases you may not have known came from baseball – beisbolismos, if you will. Play ball!
“Llegó barriéndose”: In baseball terms, this means sliding into a base, usually second or third, to avoid being tagged out. But in México, the phrase has now come to be used to signify someone who arrives just in the nick of time.
- Ex: “He got to class seconds before the bell rang, llegó barriendose.”
“De Pisa y Corre”: This is when a fly ball is caught and a baserunner tags up the base they’re on to advance to the next one. But the phrase is also used to describe someone who arrives to a place and only stays for a short amount of time. Kind of like when you double book for two parties and attend the first one for just a quick minute.
- Ex: “I have concert tickets for later tonight, so I’m just going to stop by this party de pisa y corre!”
“Ni cacha ni picha ni batea la pelota”: This beisbolismo describes a ball player who doesn’t catch, pitch, or hit the ball well. It’s a creative way of using baseball lingo to basically call someone good for nothing.
- Ex: “My coworker has been slacking off and I’m the one who gets stuck doing his work – ni cacha, ni picha, ni batea la pelota.”
“Llegar a primera base”: Ah, the most universal of beisbolismos. In the baseball world, it means advancing to first base after getting a hit or drawing a walk. In everyday lingo, it means to kiss someone, usually a French kiss. Getting to first base is the first step to scoring, both on and off the field.
- Ex: “It was the first date, y llegue a primera base.”
“Botar la pelota”: This one is like the English phrase, “you hit it out of the park,” which is used to describe a highly successful achievement. The origins of this baseball phrase can be traced back to when the sport was played in open fields and public parks. Park is just another word for stadium, so hitting it out of the park means scoring a home run. In other words, you killed it.
- Ex: After seeing your friend’s band play live, you could congratulate them for their performance by saying “Botaste la pelota!”
“Cayó de flai”: You know that awkward moment when you’re at a party and you see someone drop in that clearly was not invited? Well, Cubans would say that person “cayó de flai,” which literally translates to they came in like a fly ball, dropping in without an invitation.
- Ex: “I was having a small, invite-only dinner party, but Estela showed up. Cayó de flai.”
“Me agarraron fuera de base”: In a literal sense, this phrase is used when a baserunner is tagged out. This kind of play involves a pickoff where the infielder sneaks up on the runner and takes a throw from the pitcher or catcher to tag that player out. In Puerto Rico, this phrase also means being caught off guard or by surprise.
- Ex: “Stephanie told me she wasn’t feeling well, so when I bumped into her at the concert me agarró fuera de base.”
“Me mandaron p’al bullpen”: In baseball, the bullpen is the designated area where relief pitchers warm up. But in Puerto Rico, the expression “mandar a alguien p’al bullpen” is sort of the equivalent to sending someone to a time out – a way to cool down a difficult situation.
- Ex: “We were arguing at the party in front of everyone, y me mandaron p’al bullpen.”
“Un flaisito al catcher”: Spanglish takes center stage in this beisbolismo from DR. Flaisito, is another word for fly ball, using the suffix “ito” at the end to indicate a small or cute hit. The English word “catcher” is pronounced here in Spanish. In baseball, the phrase translates to a fly ball hit to the catcher. Beyond the baseball diamond however, Dominicans use this phrase to describe something that is really easy to do. It’s like heating up water for instant coffee – a straight up flaisito al catcher.
- Ex: “If she runs for office it would be un flaisito al catcher. She’s a shoo-in.”
“Le cogí las señas”: This phrase refers to catchers who send signs to their pitcher calling for specific pitches or coaches who send play signs to their players. In baseball, trying to steal signs is a major violation of an unwritten baseball rule. If caught, the hitter risks being aggressively pitched to, maybe even getting hit by a pitch. In everyday use, this phrase means to find out someone’s intentions. If someone finds out your intentions are bad, watch out, you might get hit by a fast ball.
- Ex: “She’s flirting with you just to make her crush jealous, le cogí las señas.”
What beisbolismos are you familiar with? Share and start the conversation below!