The baseball academies in the Dominican Republic provide opportunities for Dominicans to escape poverty and chase the famous rags to riches stories of stars like Tejada (the picture above is of one of these academies) These places of amazing opportunity, where good equipment is provided, where formal training can be found, hide a deep, dark story for those players that don’t make the cut.
The problem with these places is that once a player makes it to the United States, but does not make it in baseball, that player runs out of options. Dave Zirin wrote about this a while ago in 2005. He talks about how when a player from the Dominican Republic doesn’t make the cut, not only are their dreams about baseball cut, but for many, all hopes of getting out of poverty are torn away. The kids that sign up for these academies lose the education that their peers are getting who are not playing baseball. So the players who do not make the cut are really left with nothing.
Baseball academies in countries like the Dominican Republic has been an area as a fan that I have struggled on ethically. The teams say that they are giving the children in these schools a good education, but there is a cynical strain in me that feels that the education is leaving a lot to be desired and the children are not learning all the skills that are needed to get upward social mobility in the Dominican Republic.
The part that is hard to swallow is that the United States cannot do anything really to stop teams from doing this because it is outside of our Government’s reach. This has become one of the unfortunate results of baseball’s globalization and one of the best examples of imperialism by the MLB. There is one person who could have an impact, and that is the baseball commissioner (currently Bud Selig). The Commissioner can mandate reforms to these academies so the participants get a proper education as well. That would be a nifty solution, although it could also be wishful thinking.
I admit it is hard for me to judge the actions of the families that have their kids join these academies because I have never lived in the poverty that they are and for them this might be the only way that they can see a way out of poverty.