On June 14th, the San Diego State Sports MBA Program took flight on their week-long trip to the Dominican Republic. The excursion would be utilized to explore the effect Major League Baseball has on the country, and how the Dominican Republic puts a great deal of focus on training future ball players. The trip’s itinerary was filled with visits to the MLB headquarters, MLB team academies, independent baseball programs, and community outreach events through Baseball Cares, all aimed to understand the country’s culture, communities, and economy through the sports lens.
Upon arriving in Santo Domingo, SMBA ’17 was treated to a tour of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. The walking tour of the city showed students the history of the old Spanish colony; though the colony was supremely mistreated by the Spanish, the current residents now take pride in the city’s heritage as a way to distance itself from the identification with Haiti. After seeing incredible landmarks, towering cathedrals, and beautiful views, the day was wrapped up with a welcome dinner, and an orientation to the week’s itinerary.
The following day, SMBA 17 visited the MLB Headquarters, where left Santo Domingo en route west to Najayo. Rafael Perez, the leader of the headquarters, headlined a panel of presenters that shed light on the operations in the Dominican Republic, and its responsibility to Major League Baseball, the athletes, and the community. As the only MLB headquarters outside the United States, those in charge sought to sign, train, and educate young men in order to prepare them for roles in MLB franchises. Over the years, the development of the office has grown ten-fold, with now all 30 MLB franchises housing an academy in the Dominican Republic, each looking to find the next David Ortiz or Pedro Martínez.
Students learned about the signing process, where young men no younger than 16 could be signed to academies where they will be taught the skills to succeed in professional baseball. As age discrepancy continues to be an issue in the MLB, specifically for international players, SMBA ’17 learned about the program’s efforts to protect against counterfeiting, and promote a more streamlined, trustworthy system. The education of players was also discussed in depth, as great care is given to those who may not make it to the big leagues. Though educational programs are currently run through each franchise’s respective academy, the MLB is constantly working to unify the system and improve the education for these young ball players, not just on the diamond, but for life beyond baseball.
Interns of the MLB offices then gave SMBA ’17 a tour of the facilities, giving the students a better knowledge of the scope of the program. After a great experience filled with speakers, questions, passion, and baseball, SMBA ’17 graciously thanked the hosts for their openness, kindness, and genuine interest; the class left the facility and continued traveling to Najayo, where the next chapter of the voyage would begin.