Dominican band changing things up during Salt Lake Bees' games at Smith's Ballpark
Kraig Williams, Salt Lake Bees
SALT LAKE CITY — Fans playing drums, chanting and singing are common occurrences at Rio Tinto Stadium when Real Salt Lake takes the pitch, but those things are mostly foreign to the world of American baseball. However, a makeshift band is starting to bring that atmosphere to Smith's Ballpark during Salt Lake Bees' games.
"This is a new thing to Utah, but it is an old thing to us," said one of the band's members, Lepy Jimenez. "We do it everyday."
Armed with nothing but homemade drums, cheese graters, sticks and their own voices, Jimenez and a group of friends have turned Salt Lake's home park into their own concert venue. The group is on a mission to make baseball in Utah more like what people experience in Jimenez's native Dominican Republic.
"We have bands, like neighborhood band, and we go in and cheer for favorite players and favorite teams like all night," Jimenez said of baseball in the Dominican. "Baseball is a passion for everybody back home."
The Dominican's love affair with baseball is obvious when you look around the majors. Superstars Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Robinson Cano are among the many ballplayers that call the Domincan home. The Bees have their own representative of the Dominican in third baseman Luis Jimenez, and he has a connection with the new band that has taken to the stands in Salt Lake.
Lepy Jimenez referred to the person that Bees' fans call Lucho as a cousin, but according to the Salt Lake player they're just friends. Luis Jimenez, however, does consider one member a father figure.
"I treat one of them like my father," Luis Jimenez said of Juan Jimenez, one of the band members. "But it's not a relation."
Lepy Jimenez said that Lucho's father informed Juan to look after his son.
"(Luis') real dad lives in Germany," Lepy Jimenez said. "So he told (Juan) to take care of his boy. He's the closest one to him."
Related to the Bee star or not, the group has made their instruments and voices heard on the corner of 1300 South and West Temple.
They play a certain song when an opposing batter is swinging. Another for when the Bees collect their third out. And another for when the home team connects on a big hit.
They also sing popular songs from the Dominican, but even if they have planned songs they aren't afraid to improvise a little bit.
"We don't practice or anything," Lepy Jimenez said. "It's mostly improvised, but we know the songs."
The songs the band plays and the flags they wave are helping create a different atmosphere than most baseball fans in America are used to and their uniqueness is starting to garner a following.
"Most of the time we are signing autographs — we sign baseballs," Lepy Jimenez said. "People come take pictures of us, they ask us how many years we have been playing together. We don't play like a band, it's just like a cultural thing. We've been doing this since we were kids."
Lepy Jimenez and his band realized how much their minor celebrity status had risen on a recent trip to a restaurant to watch a World Cup match.
"We go to there to watch and people knew who we were," Lepy Jimenez said. "They come up and tell us, 'You guys, you make the game more fun.'"
One of their biggest supporters is Salt Lake mascot Bumble, who has a favorite tune.
"Bumblebee comes and says, 'Play the banana song,'" Lepy Jimenez said. "He loves the banana song."
The group supports all the Bees players, but Lucho will always get the band the most excited. Lepy often calls out "Luchoooo Libre" in reference to the film "Nacho Libre," much to the disdain of the Salt Lake player.
"(Luis) hates it when I call him that," Lepy Jimenez said laughing.
Though Luis Jimenez might not like some of the things the band members yell at him, he thinks the group in general is providing a fun atmosphere for the crowd.
"It's fun and it keeps everyone alive," Luis Jimenez said. "I don't tell them to do it for me, I tell them to do it for the fans."
Because of the band, those fans are getting to experience a whole new atmosphere at a baseball game.
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