By David Walter | Deadspin
KOROR, Palau—What would a country run by baseball players look like? Would it be a sabermetrics-driven technocracy? A clutch-obsessed theocracy? A cup-adjusting macho dystopia?
This isn’t a thought experiment. It’s happening right now in Palau, a tiny archipelago of some 20,000 souls located in the Western Pacific that is currently playing host to a radical experiment in letting the sluggers run the show.
Baseball has dominated the cultural and sporting life of Palau for almost 100 years, which is about four times longer than Palau’s been an independent nation. Over the years, Palauans have shaped the game to fit their island lives. Kids learn to play with bamboo bats and coconut-leaf balls. Pitchers chew betel nut instead of dip. Monsoons rain out not just games and series, but entire seasons of league play. Local traditions of witchcraft have crossed over into the country’s sporting life; even today, it’s not uncommon for accusations of black magic to fly after particularly contentious games. (I’ve been reporting on and off from Palau for seven years, so I’m used to it. THIS pitcher’s dad was a known wizard; THAT team’s manager caught women from an opposing village burning leaves over home base.) Baseball as it’s played in Palau is a decidedly Palauan thing.