With Mariano Rivera's exit, we've seen the last player to wear 42 on his back (excepting Jackie Robinson Day, which doesn't really count). Have we also seen the last Panamanian in the major leagues for a while?
Hardly. Manny Corpas, Christian Bethancourt, Carlos Ruiz, and young Randall Delgado were all born in Panama. Bruce Chen, too. But it seems that baseball in Panama has fallen upon hard times, at least according to this article in Foreign Policy. One symptom?
With Panamá's economy ever prone to uncertainty, funding for baseball became -- and remains -- scarce. Under the nationalized model, funding comes from the state, and there is simply not enough to go around; provincial and local league officials today compete viciously for precious little. In theory, funds should be equally distributed to all provinces and districts, but in practice this has hardly been the case. Money is often parceled out via backroom political deals -- candidates for the elected positions of provincial league presidents dole funding out for votes, and favoritism runs amok.
Hold on, you lost me there. It's not like the Dominican economy is exactly stable, let alone thriving. In fact, it's often argued that economic instability leads to more enthusiasm about baseball, which offers a way out of poverty. Still, the piece offers a comprehensive overview of Panamá's baseball history, and so it's well worth your time.