The DRSEA recently held two fundraisers, one in the Dominican Republic, the other in New York City, both of which were highly successful.
The Dominican event, JAZZ UNDER THE STARS with the Legends of Baseball, was a memorable evening of music under the stars with the renowned group Eric Litman & Wavelength, held at the Las Terrazas del Mesón de la Cava, an unbelievable venue in Santo Domingo that is a visual wonder and a natural acoustical marvel.
But the real stars of the night were the lineup of Dominican baseball legends who attended, including Juan Marichal, César Geronimo, Jesus Alou, Rafael Landestoy, Mario Soto and Ozzie Virgil, the first Dominican in the major leagues.
“Anytime I can support an event that is about education, I make it a point to attend,” said Marichal, the only Dominican in the baseball Hall of Fame. Alou stressed that while education is important for baseball players, improving education overall in the Dominican Republic is a must as well. “We need to educate mothers, fathers, as well as baseball players,” he said.
Chivas Regal, Marianne Joyas and Cigar Country Stores were the sponsors of the event, with a generous supply of cigars donated for smoking at the event by La Leyenda del Cigarro, the store in Santo Domingo where I get my personal stash.
In all, it was a fantastic event that we plan on turning into an annual affair, with additional activities planned for next year, including a golf outing. Make plans now to attend on June 13, 2015. Updates will be posted on our website, www.drsea.org.
This video captures this evening well:
Making A Difference In The Dominican Republic – 4th Annual
The DRSEA also held its Fourth Annual “Making A Difference In The Dominican Republic” event in New York City at the 809 Lounge. We were honored to pay tribute to Rafael Perez, Director, Dominican Office Operations for Major League Baseball, for his outstanding and sustained commitment to the advancement of Dominicans and the Dominican Republic, particularly in the area of education.
In 2000, Perez took over Major League Baseball’s new office in the Dominican Republic. While there, he established standards for all MLB academies in the country. His oversight of Major League Baseball operations in the Dominican Republic ended when he left for the New York Mets in 2005, despite an offer to remain in Santo Domingo.
With the Mets, Perez was Director of International Relations, responsible for the team’s operations in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, coordinating the Winter Leagues, and developing an international education program as well as special international projects.
The return of Perez to head MLB’s Dominican office in 2011 signaled a new, tougher attitude towards reform in the Dominican Republic. When he originally headed MLB’s office in the Dominican Republic, he fought to curb the influence of buscones, and sought to address age and identity fraud and the use of steroids, problems that have plagued Dominican baseball.
Since his return, Perez took on the task of addressing the lack of education among prospects and during his current tenure, Major League Baseball adopted a program where released players can continue their education.
Under Perez’ leadership, MLB recently unveiled a program designed to improve reading, writing, critical thinking and English skills among prospects; five teams signed up for the 20-week pilot program that started in January.
Perez has always been an advocate for educating young baseball players and MLB has followed his lead. As a Dominican who came through the system, he has an intimate knowledge of its complexities and the odds and obstacles that face these kids. He knows that ultimately it is education, not baseball, that will prepare them for life.
“I am blessed to do something I love and have passion for,” Perez said. “Even though it is nice to be recognized for the work I do, it is not the reason I do it. I believe that MLB can make a difference on and off the field. I have no doubt that we can make a big difference in our industry, but most important in the life of kids.”
We were also delighted to have on hand Lou Melendez, a retired Major League Baseball executive who was honored at the New York event two years ago. Melendez has been a staunch advocate of the DRSEA since its inception, and I was humbled by the credit he gave me.
My concerns about baseball in the Dominican Republic grew out of a trip I took in 2000 at the request of Major League Baseball to take a look at MLB baseball camps in the country. It was very telling. Conditions in many were horrible; some resembled prisons and cheese sandwiches were served as dinner at more than a couple. Education for prospects simply did not exist.
As a result of that trip, Major League Baseball opened an office in the country to oversee its teams’ academies. There have been vast improvements in conditions, with some camps looking like college campuses and offering plush facilities. Under Perez’ leadership, Major League Baseball is beginning to address the educational needs of prospects.
“Charles was instrumental in assessing the conditions of MLB’s academies in the DR and developing a plan to improve them,” Melendez said. “Without Charles, MLB academies would not be where they are today.”
High praise indeed, but had it not been for that trip and how is opened my eyes to the plight of baseball players in the Dominican Republic, the DRSEA would not have been created, and it is the DRSEA that is, and will continue to be, the catalyst for change in Dominican baseball.
And ultimately, it will be the efforts of people like Rafael Perez and Lou Melendez that will continue to make a difference in the Dominican Republic.