Just read a nice series at slate’s well-traveled column documenting a trip to the Dominican Republic touring the baseball scene there. The story is called, Baseball, Dominican-Style. It gives a nice description of the Major League Baseball training camps operating in the Dominican Republic. Major League Baseball teams are funding training academies for young Dominican ball players. The boys live at the academy and are fed and paid, but are under strict rules. The camps are run like a military school, but they live and breath baseball, instead of war. What I find sad is that if these kinds of academies were provided to young boys in our inner cities we might find more young American men getting out inner city drug trade and becoming great ball players. The five-part piece documents a meeting with Juan Marichal and smoking cigars with Jose Rijos. I find this baseball infrastructure in the Dominican Republic really interesting. The writer states:
It is the kind of place that reeks of long odds. One scout estimated that for every 100 prospects signed and enrolled in the Phillies academy, only three or four will make the major leagues. And given Dominican baseball fever—”Every father wants his son to be a ballplayer,” I was told again and again—it is safe to assume that for those 100 signees, there are many thousands more outside the academy looking in.
One good thing about this phenomena is that the operation is run completely by Dominicans. The only thing coming from the US is the cash. The author writes:
It is one thing to think about Major League Baseball sending its agents to the Third World to pluck out young shortstops and leave everyone else to fend for themselves. It’s another to think of Dominican baseball, at its core, as a local industry.