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DRSEA Education Program Launched

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, Uncategorized | Posted on 11-07-2011

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The Arias & Goodman Academy, one of the premiere baseball development programs in the Dominican Republic, has launched a pilot project developed by the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy to provide education for its prospects.

Gary Goodman

Gary Goodman

“Make no mistake about it,” said Gary Goodman in announcing the program. “We are in the business of preparing young Dominicans for careers in baseball; to help talented young men achieve their dreams. But there is also a social side that must be addressed.  Reality is that most of these kids will not succeed in baseball and we owe it to them to make sure they are prepared for life after baseball.”
 

The DRSEA designed the educational program to give the Arias & Goodman Academy prospects the tools to succeed in life on and off the field.

In designing the program, the DRSEA wanted to provide options and alternatives to just playing baseball.  While the DRSEA ultimately wants to prepare young Dominican boys to position themselves to qualify for baseball scholarships at U.S. colleges and universities, there are a multitude of others in camps like the Arias & Goodman Academy who need a solid and basic education.  The DRSEA wants to improve lives through the DRSEA experience, and what those lives can ultimately do to improve their country.

The Arias & Goodman Academy education program is custom designed to meet the needs of its prospects whose educational levels vary from minimal to intermediate; many dropped out of school to pursue their dreams.  Added to the challenge is that most of the prospects are only in the Arias & Goodman Academy, located in San Pedro de Macoris, for short periods of time.  The DRSEA had to take all that into account and come up with a program that will not only vastly expand the education levels of all prospects, but also provide them with additional life skills that will make them more complete human beings, and ultimately better baseball players as well, which will make them even more valuable to the Arias & Goodman Academy.

Batting practice at the Arias & Goodman Academy

Batting practice at the Arias & Goodman Academy

The program is heavy on developing conversational English, as well as critical thinking and life skills, but also provides general education in math, history, geography, art, health and nutrition, financial planning and acculturation.  This broad spectrum will allow the Arias & Goodman Academy prospects to develop skills in conceptualizing, analyzing, evaluating and applying information that they are exposed to; to make them better able to handle a multitude of decisions that will be coming their way as they mature.

Goodman said he believes his academy is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive education program to prospects.  “Investing in the education of our players is important to us,” he said.  “We want to provide them with the skills to succeed beyond baseball. For while it is true that many of them will not make it all the way in baseball, we will try to give them the opportunity to develop skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

“For many of these young men, they are experiencing their first structured, disciplined environment. It is our hope that in the relatively short period of time they spend with us, they will awaken to the larger world and the opportunities it holds for them.”

Lanzado El Programa Educativo De La DRSEA – Spanish Version

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, Uncategorized | Posted on 11-07-2011

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La Academia Arias y Goodman, uno de los primeros programas para el desarrollo del béisbol en la República Dominicana, ha lanzado un programa piloto que tiene por objeto proporcionar estudios a sus jugadores prospectos.

Gary Goodman

Gary Goodman

“No se equivoquen,” dijo Gary Goodman al dar a conocer el programa. “Nuestra línea de negocio se dedica a preparar a los jóvenes dominicanos para las carreras beisboleras y para ayudar a jóvenes talentosos a realizar sus sueños. Pero hay un lado social también que se tiene que enfrentar. Es decir, la realidad es que la mayoría de estos jóvenes no tendrán éxito en el béisbol, por lo cual es nuestro deber asegurarles la preparación para la vida después del juego.”

La DRSEA diseñó el programa educativo para dar a los prospectos de la Academia Arias y Goodman las herramientas para que tengan éxito en la vida, dentro y fuera del campo.

Al desarrollar el programa, la DRSEA quería brindar opciones y alternativas más allá del juego. Mientras que la DRSEA desea preparar a los jóvenes dominicanos para que estén en una posición que les dé derecho a conseguir becas universitarias peloteras en las universidades estadounidenses a la larga, también quedan muchos en los campamentos como el de la Academia Arias y Goldman que requieren una educación tanto sencilla como sólida. La DRSEA tiene como objetivo mejorar las vidas a través de la experiencia DRSEA, e impactar cómo esas vidas eventualmente lleguen a mejorar su país.

La Academia Arias y Goodman hace uso de un diseño personalizado para satisfacer las necesidades de sus prospectos, cuyos niveles educativos van de lo mínimo a lo intermedio, dado que muchos han abandonado sus estudios en busca de sus sueños. El hecho de que la mayoría de los prospectos sólo pasan ratos breves en la Academia Arias y Goodman intensifica el desafío. La DRSEA tuvo que tomar todo eso en cuenta e idear un programa que no sólo ampliará bastante los niveles educativos de todos los prospectos, sino también les proporcionará habilidades vitalicias adicionales que les harán seres humanos más completos y mejores peloteros a la larga, lo cual hará que aporten aun más valor a la Academia Arias y Goodman.

Práctica de bateo en la Academia Arias y Goodman

Práctica de bateo en la Academia Arias y Goodman

El programa pone mucho énfasis en desarrollar la capacidad del inglés conversacional, el pensamiento crítico y las destrezas vitalicias, pero también ofrece estudios generales en las matemáticas, la historia, la geografía, el arte, la salud y la nutrición, la planificación financiera, y la aculturación. Este amplio espectro les permitirá a los prospectos de la Academia Arias y Goodman a desarrollar habilidades para conceptualizar, evaluar y aplicar datos a los que estén expuestos, para que traten mejor con la multitud de decisiones que se les presenten como se desarrollen.

Goodman dijo que cree que su academia es la primera de su clase en ofrecer un programa educativo global a los prospectos. “Nos importa invertir en la educación de nuestros jugadores,” dijo él. “Queremos proporcionarles las habilidades necesarias para tener éxito más allá del béisbol. Verdad que muchos no se colarán a las Grandes Ligas, pero intentaremos darles la oportunidad de desarrollar habilidades que les ayudarán de por vida.”

“Para una gran parte de estos jóvenes, están experimentado su primer ambiente estructurado y disciplinado. Tenemos la esperanza de que durante el plazo breve que pasen con nosotros se despierten al mundo más grande y a las oportunidades que les depare.”

Traducido por Arthur Calvano

Sesión Especial De Documental Sobre El Béisbol Dominicano (Special Screening of Dominican Baseball Documentary)

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, Dominican Republic Organizations, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, DRSEA Sponsorship & Donation Opportunities, Uncategorized | Posted on 11-07-2011

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The Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy held a special screening of “El Play,” a documentary on Dominican baseball, on June 21 at the 809 Lounge, 112 Dyckman St., New York, NY.   The screening, followed by a panel discussion on baseball and education in the Dominican Republic, as well as a VIP reception, was part of a DRSEA fundraiser.

“El Play” is produced, directed and written by Pablo A. Medina, an assistant professor at the Parsons New School for Design in New York City, and has won several film festival awards.

Alfredo Arias drives home point

Alfredo Arias drives home point

Cincinnati  Reds legends Tony Perez and Pete Rose served as honorary co-chairs of the event; panelists for the discussion included: Joel Araujo, a specialist in the International Baseball Operations Department for Major League Baseball;  Pablo A. Medina, producer, director and writer of “El Play;” Charles S. Farrell, co-founder and project director of the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy;  Julio Pabón, founder of the Latino Sports Writers & Broadcasters Association (LSWBA), as well as founder of Latino Sports Ventures, Inc.; and Alfredo Arias, partner in the Arias & Goodman Academy.

The film’s main character is Jairo Candelario, a young aspiring baseball player from the town of San Pedro de Macoris, a small city in the Dominican Republic famous for producing some of the best players in the majors, including New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Canó.  The film follows Jairo’s dream of signing a professional contract, and includes conversations with his family, and interviews with professional scouts, coaches and a baseball historian.

Co-hosting the event was the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation, which focuses its energy on the educational needs of the Dominican community – the largest, and one of the poorest, immigrant groups in New York City.

The event was well attended, and included several Dominican government representatives, former baseball players, and executives from Major League Baseball.

Julio Pabón advocates education for Dominican prospects

Julio Pabón advocates education for Dominican prospects

“El Play” was well received by the audience, but the panel discussion was what set the event apart. While a multitude of opinions were shared, everyone concurred that education has to be a centerpiece in the development of young baseball players in the Dominican Republic.

The DRSEA is looking to screen “El Play” in other venues before the end of the year. Those wishing to make a donation to the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy can do so by going to www.drsea.org or by sending a check to the DRSEA at:

 

 

Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy

600 Anita Street, #16

Chula Vista, CA 91911

 

Support the DRSEA, Sponsor A Special Screening of “El Play” in New York City

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, DRSEA Sponsorship & Donation Opportunities, Uncategorized | Posted on 27-04-2011

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"El Play"

"El Play"

The Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy (DRSEA) will present a special screening of “El Play,” (watch “El Play” trailer) a documentary on Dominican baseball, on June 21, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the 809 Lounge, 112 Dyckman St., New York, NY.

The screening, followed by a panel discussion and VIP reception, is part of a fundraiser for the DRSEA, whose mission is to educate young and gifted student athletes in the Dominican Republic, help develop their baseball skills, and give them the tools to success in life on and off the field.  Through a rigorous educational component, the DRSEA will prepare young boys to have the opportunity for scholarships at U.S. colleges and universities.

Co-hosting the event is the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation, which focuses its energy on the educational needs of the Dominican community – the largest, and one of the poorest, immigrant groups in New York City.

“El Play” is produced, directed and written by Pablo A. Medina, an assistant professor at the Parsons New School for Design in New York City.   The film’s main character is Jairo Candelario, a young aspiring baseball player from the town of San Pedro de Macoris, a small city in the Dominican Republic famous for producing some of the best players in the majors, including New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Canó.  The film follows Jairo’s dream of signing a professional contract, and includes conversations with his family, and interviews with professional scouts, coaches and a baseball historian.

The DRSEA’s goal is to build a state-of-the-art sports and education complex in the Dominican Republic.  Currently, there are about 3,500 young Dominicans in baseball camps throughout the country.  Ninety-eight percent will fail to have professional baseball careers.  Half of Minor League Baseball is Latino, the bulk of them Dominicans. Most are uneducated or undereducated, without even a high school diploma in a country where there is a strong need for a skilled and educated workforce.  Most drop out of school after the 5th grade! The Academy will not guarantee anyone a professional career, but will hopefully put them in a position where OPTIONS are available.  In the event that a graduate is unable to secure a career as a professional athlete, the Academy and/or a college education will permit them to pursue other careers, many of which could have explicit impact on the future of the Dominican Republic as a whole.  For more information, please visit www.drsea.org.

“EL PLAY” SPONSORSHIP LEVELS

“HOME RUN”

$5,000 Level “Title Sponsor”

* Includes 20 tickets to the screening with VIP seating

* 10 tickets to VIP reception

* Signage at screening and reception

* Full-page ad in program

* Dais recognition at the event

* Acknowledgement in all press and PR materials as “Title Sponsor”

* Option to give out premiums

* Link and logo on DRSEA website

“TRIPLE”

$2,500 Level

* Includes 15 tickets to screening

* 7 tickets to VIP reception

* Half-page ad in program

* Signage at screening

* Acknowledgement in press and PR materials

* Option to give out premiums

“DOUBLE”

$1,000 Level

* Includes 10 tickets to screening

* 5 tickets to VIP reception

* Quarter-page ad in program

* Option to give out premiums

“SINGLE”

$500  Level

* Includes 5 tickets to screening

* 2 tickets to VIP reception

* Mention in program

 

Individual ticket price:

* $25 screening

* $50 screening & VIP reception

 

Print out a Sponsorship form, along with the "El Play" screening information.

 

“El Play” Trailer


ELPLAY_Trailer by cubanica

El Día De Los Delfines (The Day Of The Dolphins)

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, DRSEA News & Developments, Sports At Large, Uncategorized | Posted on 04-04-2011

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I recently got to spend the day here with Laura Acosta, one of the DRSEA advisory board members who has provided support and inspiration from the beginning.  Laura, a Dominican who has lived in New York City for 40 years, is executive director of the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation, which focuses on the educational needs of the Dominican community in New York City.

Laura also sponsors a community center in Santiago, the main purpose for her visit to the Dominican Republic.  But on the day we got together, she was heading my way to take a look at another project she is involved in.

We drove to Los Alcarrizos, a municipality on the outskirts of Santo Domingo.  Though I have lived in the Dominican Republic for two years, I do not think I will ever get used to the level of poverty that infests this nation, but Los Alcarrizos is even more desolate then I am accustomed.  But there in the midst of so much destitution was a baseball field, the Dominican lifeline to a better future.

That’s me on the left in the back and Laura Acosta dead center

That’s me on the left in the back and Laura Acosta dead center

The field is operated by Liga Delfines (Dolphins League), a recreational league that encompasses about 240 young boys from all over the Dominican Republic, I am told by league president Domingo Almanzar. Children practice only after school, Almanzar says, and those who come from afar do so only when school is not in session.  There is a small dormitory to house those who travel.

Laura had collected donations of food and school supplies for the community last December, but had never visited before and wanted to get a first-hand look.   She brought tote bags and T-shirts donated by the New York Knicks, as well as an ample amount of school supplies to distribute.  The children’s faces light up with delight at the small gifts that bring such great joy to those who have so little.

Almanzar says the league gets by on small donations and the occasional food sale, and even manages to send a team every year to play in the United States, as he proudly displays the trophies won and photos of Dominicans boys in Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and other cities across America, a world away from Los Alcarrizos in more than just miles.  The field and dormitory have no bathroom facilities; the children have to relieve themselves in the nearby bushes.

Laura Acosta and Domingo Almanzar distribute gifts to eager kids

Laura Acosta and Domingo Almanzar distribute gifts to eager kids

On the drive back to the capital, Laura and I discuss many things, including how to get a bathroom installed and getting some baseball equipment donated, but also developing an educational program for Liga Delfines that already does so much with so little.  The DRSEA continues to look for feeder programs and this one seems ideal.  I have been invited back to watch a game and look forward to the experience.

I always try to visit with Laura when I am in New York City, but it was nice to meet with her on my turf.  I am sometimes anxious about the future of the DRSEA, but she always brings such enthusiasm and commitment and understanding to the table that serves to renew my commitment and dedication because I know I am not alone in making the dream come true.

 

 

 

 

UN PASO MAS Y LLEGAMOS.

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic Baseball, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments | Posted on 10-01-2011

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With a lot of work and a lot of luck, we expect to open our doors in six months, in an abbreviated version from earlier expectations, but the goal now is to get started and expand as time goes on.

But we still need a lot of help from those who share the vision for the DRSEA, from those who see the ultimate value of the project in a variety of terms; for baseball, for education, but ultimately for the lives we can improve through the DRSEA experience, and what those lives can ultimately do to improve the Dominican Republic.

We continue to ask your support in the form of a donation to the effort, but also through suggestions on our mission.  We want people to embrace the DRSEA as their own.  We all have a responsibility to help those less fortunate and one of the things I have come to realize by living here is that I am blessed, that I have been fortunate and I have an obligation to help others.

I felt a connection with the Dominican Republic the first time I visited 15 years ago and that connection is stronger today and gets stronger each day;  it has been life changing.  While I have had my share of people who have been less than honest, I have made friends and also made peace with myself, knowing that I am following my dream, that the path I have chosen is the right one.

I recently returned from a visit to the United States and again count my blessings for what America stands for, but I also know that the Dominican Republic has needs I can assist.  I hope you will join me today in helping to address those needs, in helping to make the DRSEA a reality, the sooner the better.  Your help will make all the difference.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

– Robert Frost

Dos Caminos Se Bifurcaban (Two Roads Diverged)

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Black & Latino Culture, Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, Dominican Republic Culture, DRSEA News & Developments, Uncategorized | Posted on 10-01-2011

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In every life there are crossroads, decisions that are made that alter our lives, sometimes for the good, sometimes not so good.  I have made several, including the decision to move to the Dominican Republic two years ago to pursue the creation of the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy.

One of the first critical decisions I made in life was picking Lincoln University (PA) to attend.  I had actually wanted to go to George Washington University because I liked D.C.; my mother wanted me to attend Swarthmore College.  My dad, however, reminded me of the cost of both, and pointed out that he had just finished paying for three years of private school.  One of his perks as a professor at Lincoln was a free education for his children so I knew he could not complain about that.  I figured a year at Lincoln and I could transfer, but the Lincoln experience proved to be so complete and wonderful that I stayed and graduated.  I made friends I have held close since those days and I would match my education against any college or university.  I chose the right path.

DRSEA Board retreat July 2010

DRSEA Board retreat July 2010

Since graduating from college I have made many career choices, mostly following my love of writing to a number of newspaper jobs and to a master’s degree in journalism.  I have had the privilege of writing for some of the most prestigious publications in the world.

But I felt my true calling when I first wrote about sports and saw the disparity in the industry.  It was as if people of color could catch footballs, shoot basketballs, hit baseballs, run fast, and earn millions for colleges and universities, or for professional teams.  But those same people of color could not coach teams, could not be sports agents, shoe manufacturers, clothing makers, could not own a piece of the industry.  So I became an advocate of inclusion, for expanding minority involvement in the industry of sports.

Ultimately, that led to me actually working for a couple of organizations that wanted to challenge the sports industry on inclusion and I had varying success with both.

When I was with one of them, I fell in love with a Dominican woman who lived in New York.  It was my love for her that started by love affair with the Dominican Republic.  I wanted to learn all things Dominican; on my first trip here I had a sense of déjà vu, like I had been here before.  In hindsight, I think it was a sense of what lay ahead for me in this country.

I jumped at the chance to continue my sports advocacy in New York, to be closer to the woman I loved.  It was a path that did not work out, first with the woman and second for the job, but I was able to affect some change that I am very proud of, including a critical report in 2000 on baseball academies in the Dominican Republic that led Major League Baseball to open an office in Santo Domingo.

And, as I saw the number of Latinos increasing in baseball, particularly from the Dominican Republic, it became clear in my mind where my destiny lay.  I recall a conference here I helped plan that included a number of Dominican baseball prospects.  We provided them with some insight into financial planning, selecting an agent, and to acculturation, all areas MLB said they educated players about.  Imagine my surprise when the first question from one of the prospects was, “How do I open a bank account?”

It was at that conference the seeds for the DRSEA were sown.  The need was so clear, so apparent, as was the knowledge that MLB was not filling the educational void.  My friend and associate, Harold Mendez, and I brainstormed for countless hours on solutions, knowing that we could never help everyone, but we knew we wanted to make a difference.  We knew that the passion for baseball and the dreams it offered were not enough, not when 98 percent of those who make it to academies here never succeed in the majors.  Harold and I felt we had to offer an alternative, knowing that it would be education, not baseball, which would provide salvation in the long run.  If we could use the lure of baseball, and combine it with the power of education, we could harness something unique.

We labored over our design, but finally decided that we wanted to develop an academics and sports model, create from scratch an opportunity young baseball players could pursue that would give them the parachute they needed when baseball abandoned them, as it does all but two in 100 prospects.  We rationalized that if they could do well in the classroom and on the baseball field, there would be a chance to impress colleges and universities in the United States into offering baseball scholarships.  Only 5 percent of college players are Latino, but Harold and I believe that an infusion of Dominican players into the college game will do much the same as it has done for Major League Baseball.

If those Dominicans who do get college scholarships make it to the majors, wonderful.  The fact is that 55 percent of the players drafted in the first four rounds of the draft, the so-called money rounds, are college players, so there is an added financial incentive to play college baseball.  But the real value of college is the education it provides, and with 80 percent of Dominicans never going past the eighth grade, the need for education is clear.  And with the high collateral damage in developing Dominican baseball players, to provide some with a college education, something that would permit them to be professionals in something other than baseball, is beyond logical.  It makes sense to the future of the Dominican Republic because the hope of any nation lies in the education of its youth.

And so it was that I moved to the Dominican Republic two years ago, to further lay the foundation for the DRSEA, to establish the visibility and credibility needed to have the dream reach reality.

It has been an interesting, even fascinating two years that have changed my perspectives on life.  A year ago I wrote in the INFORMER about my sadness and joy, frustration and exhilaration, hope and despair, satisfaction and disappointment, tranquility and fear, excitement and boredom, friendship and loneliness – the wide range of emotions that have come into play in this journey.  We have found land for the dream and lost it, have had broken promises and promises kept.  There have been people who have used the dream for their own profit and returned nothing.  And I have had to keep in mind every day that things do not operate the same here as in the United States, that the process to accomplish things is much different and takes time and that in itself creates angst.

But every day we get one step closer, convince one more person to embrace the dream. Every day there are inquiries from teachers who want to join the project, from parents and young boys who want the education we will provide, and from college baseball teams who believe our graduates will help them raise their baseball stock.

And Major League Baseball, in the midst of a reform movement in the Dominican Republic, appears to hear our voice.  A year ago, the INFORMER called for baseball to consider fingerprinting to curtail age and identity fraud among Dominican prospects; a few months ago, fingerprinting was indeed added to baseball’s reform repertoire.  And, I was encouraged by a conversation with Sandy Alderson, the man baseball hired to head the reform, that education is a part of the solution to the problems plaguing baseball in the Dominican Republic, and that the DRSEA can and should be a factor in that educational process.

La Búsqueda De Los Sueños (The Pursuit Of Dreams)

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, Dominican Republic Culture, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, Uncategorized | Posted on 27-09-2010

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Like thousands of other boys and young men in the Dominican Republic, Edgar Ferreira chased the dream of baseball most of his life.  And, just like thousands of others, the chase went unfulfilled, ending far short of the big league career he had envisioned.

Edgar Ferreira

Edgar Ferreira

I first met Edgar a few months ago in a chance encounter along the roadside near his home, a ramshackle dwelling he shares with eight people. Now in his early 20’s, he said his big league dreams began when he was about eight.  As his pitching skills developed, and his fastball exceeded 90 miles an hour, he attracted the attention of several buscones, the flesh peddlers who auction off young prospects to the highest bidders, but he failed to latch onto a team at 16, the magical signing age for top prospects in the country.

As he got older, the ticking clock eroded his value and by age 19 the sands of time were beginning to run out. One team offered him $3,500 to sign, another $8,500; mere pittance in a country where the average signing bonus is $100,000.  But when a buscone convinced him to lie and shave two years off his age, Edgar signed with the Anaheim Angels for $75,000, a sum he said he had to split 50-50 with his broker and others.  When the lie unraveled, he was cut from the team.

He got one more shot with the San Diego Padres, but a medical exam revealed problems in his throwing arm.  Nobody wants a pitcher with a bad wing; the dream shriveled like a raisin in the hot Dominican sun.

But Edgar had seen the promised land and now believes he can lead others there, help them to obtain the career that eluded him, and on the day I visited him again, he eagerly shows off a rag-tag platoon of recruits, about a dozen young men in baseball uniforms eager to take up the challenge.

Running the hill

Running the hill

He has them charge up a steep incline cut into the overgrowth on a hill near his home by the repetitions designed to improve leg strength.  Edgar’s prospects strain to reach the crest of the hill. We used to call them suicide drills when I played sports; that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Batting practice

Batting practice

The dreamers move on to a makeshift batting cage of netting strung between trees.  Sand carted from the nearby beach provides a carpet as Edgar tosses batting practice with balls so worn that many are without covers. The crack of the aluminum bat echoes over the hillside.

Edgar’s gym

Edgar’s gym

Edgar’s charges now take a turn in his gym, complete with weights constructed from steel rods anchored at both ends with cement set in tomato cans.  Edgar’s “training camp” is a true example of Dominican ingenuity.

We later trek down a steep, rocky road and cross a dry stream bed to a baseball field crudely cut into the terrain.  A bull is tethered nearby; a single white crane keeps him company.  It is here Edgar reflects on his own baseball journey and how it fell short.  The buscone who encouraged him to lie has dropped out of sight, probably moving on to help another boy who shows potential.

Of his recruits, Edgar believes a couple have what it takes to succeed in baseball; one of them is so dedicated he dropped out of school to chase the brass ring.  Edgar does not charge for his training; if one of his students signs, he says he will take only 20 percent of the bonus.

In the afternoon, after school lets out, another group comes to Edgar’s camp.  These 8- to 12-year-olds form his second tier of prospects, and all share the dream of becoming big league players.  Ask them their favorites and they shout out the names of Dominican stars: Pedro, Soriano, Pujols, Big Papi; there is no shortage of role models for them.

It is here that sadness and frustration overwhelm me.  Sadness that all of these dream chasers share not only a passion for baseball but also the poverty that fuels the dream.  Baseball in the Dominican Republic depends on that passion, that lure, that pursuit of a game so intoxicating that people will lie about their age, will take steroids to become bigger, faster and stronger, will abandon school for a chance at stardom, for a chance to escape poverty.  But in reality, only a precious few ever achieve the stardom the dream merchants offer.

I see the faces of so many who can benefit from what the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy has to offer; a chance to use their baseball skills to compete for college scholarships in the United States, to obtain an education, to use their minds to flee poverty.  The frustration is that for some, the DRSEA will become a reality too late to help them.

I am quickly approaching two years living in the Dominican Republic and I had hoped we would be closer to bricks and mortar than we are.  But if I have learned nothing else living here, I understand that things take time – and we are making progress.

We are looking at three separate site locations, and determining which suits the DRSEA best, both in terms of location and acquisition.  Our curriculum is being fined-tuned, so that we can offer courses that will not only prepare DRSEA graduates to succeed in U.S. colleges and universities, but to excel.

We have a stack of resumes from qualified individuals eager to teach and/or coach at the academy.  Inquiries come in from all over the world from young boys and parents wanting to know about enrollment.  Colleges baseball coaches are also inquiring, many with specific requests for a pitcher, or a third baseman, knowing that a Dominican talent infusion could turn a good baseball team into a great one.

The media has shown an interest – particularly as reform in Dominican baseball ramps up – and the DRSEA and the education it will provide are being viewed as part of the solution.

So I find myself caught between the progress we have made and the distance we still have to go, the money we have to raise to put the bricks in place, to pay teachers and coaches, to take care of baseball fields and dormitories, to outfit classrooms, to make the DRSEA a world class academic and athletics facility.  And the economic climate here and in the United States is not making things any easier.

I often feel like my clock is ticking as well; that I am not moving fast enough to help kids like those in Edgar’s camp, and yet I know that I can’t stop now, no matter how long it takes.  UN PASO MAS Y LLEGAMOS.

Photos by Jose Sanchez

A photo of Sandy Alderson in the last  INFORMER was taken by New York Daily News photographer Corey Sipkin

El Hombre Con El Plan (The Man With The Plan)

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Dominican Republic & The MLB, Dominican Republic Baseball, DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, Uncategorized | Posted on 12-09-2010

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Sandy Alderson with a group of Dominican prospects

Sandy Alderson with a group of Dominican prospects

Contrary to what some might believe, Sandy Alderson, Major League Baseball´s emissary to the Dominican Republic, does not have horns sprouting from his head. I met recently with the reform czar and came away with the impression that – while Alderson still faces an uphill battle – the right man is on the job.

The actual meeting, while in discussion for a few months, popped up on a day´s notice.  I found myself anxious as the appointment neared, in part because I simply did not know exactly what to expect.  I knew of Alderson by reputation; he is baseball´s fixer, sent into situations to repair them, and he has done a masterful job over the years.  But he has been criticized from many corners in the Dominican Republic for what has been termed a gunslinger´s approach to reform; very aggressive and decisive, and without including others, including Dominicans, in the campaign to curb age and identity fraud, steroids use among prospects, and other issues.

I have written about the situation several times in the INFORMER and was even cautioned by one baseball official to tread lightly.  It wasn´t a warning, just a reminder that baseball is very conservative and traditional and some in the industry do not like to see feathers ruffled.  I was wondering if Alderson was among them.

He began the conversation by defending reform in Dominican baseball.  After all, teams spend $100 million a year on the development of talent here, and more around the world to promote the sport.  But that makes baseball an “international citizen,” Alderson said, with responsibilities that go beyond promoting its interests.  “We have a responsibility to do more for the people we work with, more for the Dominican community,” he said.

Alderson said that begins with the prospects currently in the 29 academies operated by Major League Baseball teams. And here is where he shocked me, pleasantly so.  Alderson said that there is evidence that a better educated player has a better chance of succeeding in his goal of playing professional baseball, so it is in the best interest of baseball to provide some kind of education, either academic or vocational.  He added that he would like to see every team provide a couple hours of instruction outside of baseball each day, but conceded that teams could not be forced to do so, outside a mandate from the commissioner.

He said his second point of concern is those prospects who wash out of the academies, which is the case with 98 percent.  Something has to be done to help them with the transition from baseball, Alderson said, again either with some sort of academic or vocational training.  American prospects routinely have clauses in their contracts that provide that teams pay for that education, something that might be explored in the Dominican Republic, Alderson said.

And last, but not least, Alderson said he is also concerned for potential prospects, those 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds who dream of a future in baseball, often dropping out to school to chase the rainbow.  Once again, he said, education can and should play a key role, and here is where the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy could be instrumental.  When the academy is up and running, he said, producing graduates who go on to college, and some of them also have successful careers in baseball, the power of education AND baseball will be evident, and the DRSEA will be viewed as a powerful alternative to the traditional development route, hopefully forcing others inside and outside of baseball to take note, and perhaps ensuring that Alderson´s first two concerns are addressed.

That perception by Alderson of the role the DRSEA can play – a role we have always envisioned – was more than I could have ever anticipated, and reinforced my belief that he and I have more in common than most people think.

He reminded me that baseball has responded before when there were issues in Dominican baseball.  In 2000, when there was evidence of miserable conditions at baseball academies here, Alderson said he worked to have Major League Baseball open an office in Santo Domingo, in part to address those conditions.  I reminded him that I lead the group that examined the academies and issued the report on those conditions.

Alderson admits that the road to reform is full of potholes and he is, and will be, the target of criticism.  He added that he expects to expand the dialogue on reform in the coming months, believing that other people, including those in education and government, deserve to be heard.

Only time will tell if Alderson´s reform goals are met, and how much opposition they will face, but I left our meeting with a clearer understanding of the man who has a tremendous responsibility. And I think he has a clearer understanding of what I am trying to accomplish.  I am hoping there is a lot of room for us to work together.

INFORMER Feedback

Posted by Administrator | Posted in DRSEA, DRSEA News & Developments, Uncategorized | Posted on 12-09-2010

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I always like to get feedback on the INFORMER; it lets me know that people are reading, but I was surprised by both the volume and scope of the responses I got to the last newsletter.

Several people focused on my take on the Ozzie Guillen situation, where I basically said I agreed with him that by affording them translators, Asian players are treated differently than Latino players who are not routinely provided the same service.

I got one response that said, “I agree, it is biased not giving a translator to Spanish athletes. On the other hand, it does not matter where the individual is from, they should learn English when immigrating to the USA.

“No other country offers interpreters, provides signage in other languages, or phone options to press #2 for English. You want to live here, learn the language like anywhere else.”

One point he missed is that the vast majority of Latino players in Major League Baseball have no interest in immigrating to the United States. They come to the U.S. for spring training and return to their native countries in the off season.

Yes, I think it is important for them to learn English, just as I think it is important for me to continue to learn Spanish while living in the Dominican Republic; I would be foolish not to try to pick up at least some of the language. However, I know Americans who live here and refuse to learn any Spanish, ignorantly insisting that Dominicans need to speak English – in their own Spanish speaking country!

One of my friends here, Paco, teaches English to Dominicans at one of the local universities and I often speak to his classes. One of the things I stress to his students is that while I understand them wanting to learn English, the real value is that they are becoming bilingual, able to speak both English and Spanish. That is what Latino baseball players need to understand as well in the push for them to learn English, which all teams need to do, not so they can live in the United States, but so they can expand their own horizons.

I also got a lot of response to my piece on Cabrera, a breathtakingly beautiful section of the Dominican Republic I visited at the invitation of Cesar Geronimo, the former major league great. It is truly one of the unspoiled locales in the Dominican Republic and I hope it stays that way.

I heard from many people who agree with me; including one man who I had lost touch with, who informed me his wife was from Cabrera and he was familiar with many of the Cabrera sites I described. Another friend of mine called me to tell me that when he finished reading about Cabrera, he could close his eyes and see what I described, and that is exactly what I intended. If you can get people to visualize through words, then you have successfully communicated.

And I got a number of e-mails about my amazing 89-year-old uncle who I got to spend some time with when he visited Puerta Plata. There was also agreement that the vacation destination is not a true representation of the real Dominican Republic. “You absolutely know the real DR and not the DR most gringo tourists see,” said one reader.

But I was touched most by the reader who said simply, “Your work and passion are truly inspirational.” Someone once said that feedback is the breakfast of champions; I am certainly feeling like a winner right now.