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Remarkable piece by Jeff Passan on the horrendously sleazy underbelly of Dominican baseball and its exploitation of young children.

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  • c u n d gulag

    Wow, thanks – what a great piece!
    I knew about most of this, of course. But to see it all in one piece, was pretty devastating.

    Until the MLB draft, MLB has pretty much always depended on poor kids and their families to sign for whatever whatever little they were offered – on the concept of, “A few dollars, and a dream!” ‘Hey, why not, son? You can always return to the (mill, mine, farm, etc) if it doesn’t work out.’

    Take a look at many of the greatest players of all time, the HOF’s, and see how many of them grew-up in poverty, and signed for next to nothing – white AND black AND hispanic.

    The draft changed all of that.
    So, MLB teams for the last 40+ years, have moved that same plantation operation outside the US, to countries in South and Central America, and the Caribbean – and recently Asia, to a much lesser extent.

    I don’t know if, before reading this, I was for an International MLB draft.
    But if it ends this kind of corruption, and the way kids and their families are taken advantage of, then I’m all for it.

    Another thing I’d like to see, is a greater effort on the part of MLB at getting inner-city African American kids to take-up baseball.

    If you’re good enough to make it, and stay there, a career in MLB will last far longer than one in the NFL, and usually longer than the NBA.

    When I was growing-up in Queens, NYC, in the 60’s, most of us kids, black, white, hispanic, and asian, played some form of baseball – stoopball, punchball, stickball, etc.

    A pink Spaldeen, or a Pennsylvania Pinkie, cost around a dime, and was the ball that was used in all of the games above. Sometimes, someone found a ratty old tennis ball – and they were good too. Real baseball’s were too expensive, and besides, if you actually had one, and hit it good, it could break a window – and there’d be hell to pay.

    No one’s family back the could afford a basketball or football back then, and basketball courts were few and far between – at least where I lived.
    So, we all played some form of baseball, with cheap, pink balls.
    And having a new one, made you a hero for that day.

    My, how times have changed…

    • Wait, we’re extolling the virtues of the draft in empowering amateur players? Where did I take my wrong turn on the way to bizarro world?

  • Warren Terra

    It’s a heck of a story, but the article is a bit of a mess. The article is made damn near incomprehensible by the author’s odd decision not to clarify why the teams place a simply massive premium on their prospect being 16 rather than 18 or 19 until at least halfway through the article.
    Similarly, the nature and motive of Gayo’s alleged machinations wasn’t really made clear by the writer until far too far in the article; you’ve got all these dark mutterings about Gayo from the start of the article, and no idea what they’re meant to mean until much later.

    • Mike

      As a baseball reporter I guess Passan thinks it’s intrinsically obvious that a team would rather have a 16-year-old with the body and skills of an an 18-year-old than an 18-year-old with the body and skills of an 18-year-old.

  • Definitely an interesting article. Still, I can’t help but bristle at the characterization of the Dominican Republic as “a web and wasteland of hustlers and pimps, moneymakers and moneytakers.” I get the point he’s trying to make, but….that’s a pretty broad and ugly (and patronizing) portrayal of an entire, complicated country based on the actions of a few.

  • Alan Tomlinson

    I appreciate Erik Loomis linking to the article.

    That said, an article mentioning that professional sports are corrupt, plantation-like industries where exploitation often takes place can, in my extremely angry opinion, only be news to people who are either purposely ignorant or stupid. A lot of people are stupid though, in their defense.

    With very few exceptions, I assume that the owners of major sporting teams are not fit to tie my shoes and would rape their own mothers if it were the only way for them to retain their money and power. I tend to see the varsity college sports in a similar light.


    Alan Tomlinson

    • NonyNony

      I don’t think you have to be purposefully ignorant to be ignorant of how abusive major league sporting operations are. Not at all. If you just kind of casually follow the sports pages you would get the impression that the players all make buckets of money and live the good life for the most part. Especially when labor disputes come up and the stories are all slanted in the “these guys make 6-7 figures a season for playing a kids game” direction.

      Plus remember that every few year a cohort of kids achieve political awareness about their world. Having illusions shattered about the awesomeness of the professional sports business is something that has to happen every day for someone in the country (or at least it’s something that SHOULD be happening every day for someone in the country).

      • Bill Murray

        10,000 people a day learn something that “we all know”

  • Quincy

    While it’s clear that the player acquisition process in the DR needs more regulation and oversight, I’m worried by Passan’s suggestion that a worldwide draft is the answer. To MLB owners, I’m sure the scandal is that they occasionally overpay for players who lie about their age or use steroids. Any solution MLB produces will surely create a system where Dominican teenagers continue to get ripped off, just by MLB teams using their cartel power to suppress bonuses as opposed to unscrupulous player reps skimming off the top.

  • This would be a lot better if not for the concern trolling over identity fraud, which is of course a non-issue where the players themselves are concerned.

    As for the corruption of the buscones, yes, some of them are pretty awful, but for the most part the Dominican baseball culture is a reflection of the poverty and lack of opportunity on the island, not some sort of systematic exploitation on the part of empowered individuals. More to the point, remember that Passan’s view would win the 110% endorsement of Major League Baseball and Bud Selig, and we all know they’re the paragon of caring about amateur baseball players.

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