Baseball Academies in the Dominican Republic: From Sweatshops To Big Business
After decades of deplorable working conditions, Major League baseball teams are finally upgrading their Dominican Academies. The Cubs, Rockies and Mariners are the latest teams to invest in state-of-the-art facilities.
Baseball is expanding in the Dominican Republic as Major League teams are opening brand new academies and creating opportunities for talented young players across the island.
The D.R. is the biggest supplier of baseball players outside the United States. Nearly 30% of Opening Day rosters this year carried players born outside the U.S. and the majority of them were from the Dominican. While all 30 teams maintain training facilities in the D.R. only a handful have invested in building their own academy in this island nation.
Academies in the D.R. serve as an Ellis Island for players from other Latin countries, funneling them into a single program and filtering players to determine if they’re good enough to be promoted to short-season teams in the United States. As an example, last season the Rockies academy housed – among other countries- players from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, St. Maartens and Panama.
Minor league baseball is a tough existence with bus rides that last for days and a run-down hotel room to relax in, but life in an academy isn’t even that glamorous. MLB did an investigation on academies in 2000 and the results were alarming. Time Magazine referred to the programs as “resembling prisons.” One investigator described the terrible condition of the academies:
“Most of them were horrible,” says Charles Farrell, an investigator hired by MLB to study the facilities. “We found bugs in the rooms, cheese sandwiches for dinner.”
The Chicago Cubs in particular have been scrutinized for events that occurred in their Dominican Academy.
In 1997, author Arturo J. Marcano labeled the Cubs facility as worthy of being a “sweatshop.” Author of the book Stealing Lives, Arturo revealed the story of 19 boys who shared a single bathroom with no running water and an inebriated coach who threatened his players with a gun. One of the stories in the book involved an injured player who was nearly crippled when a street doctor damaged his arm by stomping on it to reset it.
Fast forward thirteen years and circumstances showed little improvement as an article in Time Magazine described the living conditions of the 2010 Cubs academy. There were beds stacked four bunks to a room with as much as 10 players living in a room that was built to house only two or three. There was even an instance of two boys sharing a mattress on the floor. Sandy Alderson was the MLB’s Supervisor over the D.R. at the time and upon seeing a photo of the room called the scene “unacceptable.”
Read the full story on www.minorleagueball.com