The Dominican Republic has more active major leagues than any other country outside of the United States. As of this year’s opening day, MLB rosters included 98 Dominican-born players, an average of more than three per club.
The dream of a Major League career supports a complex system of identifying and developing amateur talent in the Dominican Republic, geared towards signing a professional contract. Still, players there have a long chance of reaching the Majors, similar to Little League prospects across the world. It is therefore crucial to have an infrastructure that develops future generations of fans, coaches and community members related to the game.
Major League Baseball took an important step toward that goal on Wednesday, as the league announced a donation of $ 300,000 to build or renovate 30 baseball fields in deprived areas of the Dominican Republic.
Jorge Pérez-Diaz, MLB senior vice president in charge of international affairs, was in Santo Domingo for the announcement alongside Dominican Republic officials including Junior Noboa, the Dominican baseball commissioner, and Francisco Camacho, the country’s Sports Minister. The goal of the MLB through the grant is to have a broad impact in the 31 provinces of the country.
“We are delighted with that,” Pérez-Diaz said in a telephone interview with MLB.com. “The Dominican Republic is very important to Major League Baseball, and Major League Baseball is very important to the Dominican Republic. There have been such strong, symbiotic and cooperative relationships over the years.
“We also know that the conditions in the places where these players often play are not very good. Sometimes they play in an empty corner. We try to make the experience better for them.
Pérez-Diaz said Dominican and MLB officials would work to identify fields that may be widely accessible to community members and local baseball groups, outside of academy-related fields where many professional prospects train. The Dominican government will operate the grounds with an emphasis on public access and local league play, unlike the showcase-driven approach of the professional track.
“The idea is to make these fields important parts of the community,” said Pérez-Diaz. “In the Dominican Republic, the irony is that there aren’t many places for children to play in communities. they don’t have much [formal] leagues, so the government wants to use those funds to make sure there are play opportunities for children.
“Not everyone’s kid will be Pedro Martinez, so the idea is to make sure these kids are in safe environments, close to their homes, and can play games in a safe and organized way. “