From DR's North Shore:

Almond Pod
Photographed at the Golden Dolphin Villa. Owned by Mike Siemer. Children in the DR begin their baseball aspirations by practicing with homemade bats and substitute balls. One of the more popular 'balls' are almonds, pictured here. ISL0212_DispatchesJon Whittle

THE GOAL: To find exactly what excites and unites the people of the Dominican Republic. STRIKE ONE: Mamajuana. What sounds like a request for contraband is in fact a local drink of rum, wine, herbs and honey aged in a bottle with tree bark. Said to provide "man power." I drink it, and then need a nap. STRIKE TWO: Soccer. I do not see a single futbol. The very mention is received like pungent noni. SOLID CONTACT: I sketch a baseball field in the sand. Boys converge to point out their positions. This, and the words "New York Yankees," destroy the language barrier.** INVISIBLE BEACH:** Walking under coconut palms at Cabo Francis near Cabrera, I ask Golden Dolphin Villa owner Mike Siemer if he has ever seen an American on this beach. "I've never seen another person on it." WORST NAME: A lake called Dudu ("doo-doo") is down the hill from the Golden Dolphin. Surprise: Lake Dudu is ice-blue water and jungle vines inside a giant rock bowl. A 30-minute swim and tread revives the baseball muscles. Not too crappy.