Friday, March 30, 2012

Brewers and their cultural immersion program for Latin and Dominican players

Currently every single MLB team has a Dominican baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.  However, only 5-6 teams have a full time staff dedicated to cultural immersion of Latin and Dominican baseball players, the Brewers are one of those teams.

The Dominican Baseball Guy is a trained anthropologist, so he could tell you all about culture shock, language acquisition, cultural relativity, and many other issues facing people moving to a new country and culture.  Dominican players coming stateside face all these issues and more.

One of the anecdotes that the Dominican Baseball Guy has heard many times, both in print and from Dominican players, is that when they first get to the states they do not realize they fall into the "black" racial category.  Most consider themselves Latin and feel like they fit in with the Hispanic population, because of their shared language.  In the Dominican Republic, many of the players that are categorized as "black" in the states are categorized as "prieto" or some other racial classification.

The racial classifications are much more free flowing in the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic is mainly a homogeneous population, and the racial classifications are more descriptive characteristics based on shades of skin color.  This is a complicated issue, so for simplicity sake: whereas in the United States, the racial classifications fall into black-white-brown-yellow, in the Dominican Republic the classification are more like black-dark brown-light brown-yellowish brown-whitish brown-white.  Even Dominican family members may be classified as a different "races" due to their skin color.

However, the skin color does not necessarily decide a Dominicans "ethnicity," as in the States.  Everyone is Dominican, and there is no separation of ethnicity like in the United States.  With that says it does have an affect on social standing.  As with many parts of the world and world history, "white is right."  The famous Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was said to have whitened his skin, and many think Dominican baseball player Sammy Sosa did the same.  And the lowest members of Dominican society are the Haitian immigrants, also the darkest in complexion.  Haitians in the Dominican Republic are often discriminated against.

As you can see, it is a complicated issue, and it is just one issue Dominican baseball players face when moving to the states.  Others are of course language, food, treatment of animals, and travel.  The Brewers up and coming Latin baseball players and Dominican players are lucky to have Rolando Valles.  Rolando is native of Maracaibo, Venezuela played for twelve years in the minors.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baseball in the Dominican Republic

Well, this is certainly not the Dominican Baseball Guy's most insightful post on baseball in the Dominican Republic.  But this story needs to be highlighted and shared, even if it is just plain vanilla.

Islands magazine just released an article entitled Going Deep: Baseball in the Dominican Republic.  Also, see the photo gallery associated with the article on baseball in the Dominican Republic.  It is the typical story one sees about baseball in the Dominican Republic...kids start young, they play often with hand crafted equipment, and they play as long as they can.

The article does have some nice anecdotes about playing baseball in the north of the country. The author does a good job of explaining how the game is 'the game is at the dinner table, in the parking lot, on the beach, and [even in the] bartender’s hair.' The article ends as the author plays a makeshift game with 25 other teens and adults, Dominicans and and some foreigners.

Dominicans play the game of baseball anywhere, anytime, and from birth until they can no longer do it.
Baseball in the Dominican Republic featured in March 2012 issue of Islands

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is the Caribbean Series format flawed? El Serie del Caribe es defectuoso??

The Dominican Republic won the Caribbean Series this week, the contest between the winners of the winter baseball leagues from Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.  The Dominicans clinched the Series title with one game still to play in the 6 game round robin format.

Some are coming out and questioning the long standing Caribbean Series format after this result.  After all, the teams played a final game that was meaningless.  Critiques want to shorten the series and/or add more teams.

The Dominican Baseball Guy likes the format how it is.  Yea, it was a bad result all along this year, but this is the first year that the Dominican Baseball Guy seeing the series clinched before the last game.  It usually comes down to the final day of play.  Now the Dominican Baseball Guy could see adding a couple more teams.

Now, the solution of The Dominican Baseball Guy:
  1. 1. Bring in two more teams to make it an eight team tournament, one would be Cuba, and the other would be a playoff of teams from Nicaragua, Columbia, CuraƧao, and whoever else wants to enter a team.
  2. Have two pools play a round robin, with the top two teams from each pool advancing.
  3. Have a semifinal and final sudden deaths rounds, and maybe even a third place game if anyone wants.
Now that would be a Caribbean Series to be seen!  See all of The Dominican Baseball Guy's posts on the Caribbean Series.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dominican beisbol player Vladimir Guerrero works out for Indians

Dominican beisbol player Vladimir Guerrero showed up at the Indians Dominican baseball academy on Monday for a workout.  He is one of the all-time top Dominican beisbol players in history, by the Dominican Baseball Guy's estimation and most others.  "Vlad" Guerrero is thought to be a sure fire Hall of Famer by most as well.

As much as the Dominican Baseball Guy hates to say it, the great Guerrero is showing his age.  He has been in the big leagues for sixteen years.  With that said, he did hit .290 with 13 homers and 63 RBI in 145 games last year.  Not bad for an off year, but he is a .318 lifetime hitter.

Well, the Dominican Beisbol Guy would sure love to see him in the majors for another season.  Vladimir Guerrero es de Nizao, the Dominican Republic.
Dominican beisbol player Vladimir Guerrero still had a pretty darn good
year last year with the Orioles, photo by Keith Allison on Flickr

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dominican baseball player Aramis Ramirez remembers his baseball idols growing up in the Dominican Republic

A group of journalism students at Arizona State University has put together the Peanuts and Cracker Jacks blog.  The blog is produced for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and covers the Brewers Spring Training.

A recent post had the Brewers remembering their own idols.  The Dominican Baseball Guy was of course drawn to the comments from one of the Brewers' Dominican baseball players, Aramis Ramirez.  He is entering his 15th year in the majors and 1st with the Brewers.

Dominican player Ramirez counts fellow Dominican George Bell as his biggest influence growing up:
“Actually, that was the year that I started playing baseball because he won the MVP in the American League,” Ramirez said. “Everybody was talking about him in my hometown, he was amazing.”
Aramis Ramirez is from Santo Domingo and George Bell is from San Pedro de Macoris. The whole country was probably crazy of native Dominican baseball player Bell and his MVP run in 1987 though.
Dominican player Aramis Ramirez last year with the Cubs, photo by notmargaret on Flickr

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dominican player Manny Ramirez and his impact with the Oakland A's, Dominicano Manny Ramirez ayuda peloteros de los A's este ano

Spring Training is under way, and Dominican player Manny Ramirez is back playing for the A's.  So, begins another day of "what is  Manny Ramirez doing lately" here at the Dominican Baseball Guy blog.  Manny Ramirez is the favorite Dominican baseball player of all-time here at the Dominican Baseball Guy, so expect lots of updates as to what he is up to with the A's and in the minors, as he serves his suspension for performance enhancing drugs.

The latest is 5 people that Manny Ramirez is going to help this year, from Bleacher Report, one of the most comprehensive sports sites in all of the interweb.  The Dominican Baseball Guy loves Bleacher Report because they have individual sites and bloggers for each team.

So here are the 5 people that Manny is going to help this year: Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes, the A's 3 and 5 hitters, A's manager Bob Melvin, the young pitching staff, and Billy Beane and Lew Wolff.

And the Dominican Baseball Guy needs to add a couple more.  The Dominican player Manny Ramirez will be playing 50 games in the A's minor league system, so the Sacramento River Cats and their fans will benefit greatly.  And of course, the Dominican Baseball Guy will benefit greatly by having plenty of stuff to write about as the Manny Ramirez world turns.

Dominican player Manny Ramirez viene de Santo Domingo y Nueva York.
Dominican player Manny Ramirez with the Los Angeles Dodgers, photo courtesy of bestlaidplans.org

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rangers hoping another young Dominican pitcher works out well after success of Dominican pitcher Ogando

Alexi Ogando made the switch from outfield to pitcher after the Rangers signed him as an outfielder back in 2005.  After the whole fake birth certificate fiasco, Ogando made his way to the states, and on to the big league roster as a closer.  After one year as a closer, he moved to the starting rotation, and made an All-Star team and pitched in a World Series.

Another young Dominican pitcher is hoping to have similar success in the Rangers system.  Johan Yan had a breakthrough year last in AA.  He pitched some as a closer and some as a starter.  Yan is still developing as a pitcher, so the Rangers are not sure where he will land in the big leagues.  But either as a starter or closure, the Rangers think he will be their next big time Dominican pitcher, to go along with Ogando and Neftali Feliz, just to name two.

Ogando and Yan are both from the famed city of San Pedro de Macoris.  Feliz is from Azua, Dominican Republic.
Johan Yan hopes to follow in steps of fellow Dominican pitcher Alexi Ogando (seen here), photo by mjl816 on Flickr

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Twins' Dominican players news: Miguel Sano ready for first full season, Liriano inconsistent in Spring Training, two Dominican Summer League prospects get 50 game suspensions

Apparently yesterday was lets talk about the Minnesota Twins and all their Dominican baseball players.  First, the news broke that two Twins minor leaguers were suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs, both are young Dominican prospectsYeison Florentino and Ezequiel Zarzuela have both performed well with the Twins Dominican Summer League team, but have yet to make the trip to the states.  However, they are still subject to MLB drug testing as players in the Dominican Summer League.

Over the counter and illegal supplements are common in the Dominican Republic.  For years, trainers, also known as buscones, gave their players supplements and the players rarely followed up on what they were putting in their bodies.  Busones have admitted to giving their players animal steroids and other over the counter supplements that were not intended to be used for healthy humans.  Further, Many Dominican baseball players have tested positive for various drugs since the MLB drug testing program got under way, and that is only the ones that have gotten caught in recent years.

These practices have been slowing down in recent years, as buscones and Dominican players have become more educated as to the dangers of PEDs.  So, hopefully these two players realize their mistake and are able to share their experience with other Dominican prospects.

Second, it was reported that Francisco Liriano has been inconsistent in Spring Training.  Make that for his whole career.  Francisco Liriano was the AL Roookie of the Year and an All-Star in 2006.  He then missed all of 2007 with Tommy John surgery.  He had below average years after coming back in 2008 and 2009.  Rhen he got the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2010, after dominating in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) that off-season.  And then he had a sub-par year last season.  So, his inconsistency in Spring Training is not surprising.  He is a serviceable end of the rotation starter, even when he plays bad, so he will get his chances this year.  Liriano is from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.

Lastly, it was reported that Dominican prospect Miguel Sano will be playing his first full year with the Twins organization.  There was much hoopla surrounding the signing of Miguel Sano, and he was even featured in the Dominican baseball documentary Pelotero.  Miguel started in the Twins Dominican baseball academy and played in the Dominican Summer League.  He spent last year in short season Rookie and A ball, but will see a full season of A ball this year, and could easily move up the minor league ranks.  Sano talks about adjusting to a change of position (short stop to probably third), adjusting to the long season, and learning a new language.  The Dominican Baseball Guy agrees with most and sees Sano as a can't miss Dominican prospect, so we should see him in the majors soon.  Miguel Sano is from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cubs Dominican prospect Lake hopes to join Dominican baseball player Starlin Castro on Cubs roster

Starlin Castro has progressed faster than pretty much any prospect ever.  He was an everyday player at age 20.  This is a few times in a generation anomaly in baseball.  Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds were able to do it, but only one or two players every year make an impact like Castro has made at the age of 20.

Junior Lake hopes to join his long time friend in the big leagues soon.  The Dominican Baseball Guy has been hearing about Lake for several years.  Castro and Lake grew up together, both playing in the Cubs Dominican baseball academy in 2007.  They then made the move to the states and played for the Cubs rookie ball team together.

But Castro matured faster and caught on with the big league club in just his second year with the organization.  He has hit .300 both years, and is a plus defender.  Lake remains in the Cubs minor league system, and had a good year at AA last year.  Junior Lake is one of the top prospects in all of minor league baseball.

Lake hopes to play with Castro in the majors some day soon.  They have a mutual respect for each other, and both feel that Lake can play on the major league level.  Most in the Cubs organization and in the rest of major league baseball seem to agree.  The only question is when Junior Lake will become a Cub.

Lake says he hopes to make the jump from AA to the majors this season.  Junior Lake is from San Pedro de Macoris, Republica Dominicana.  Castro is from Monte Cristi.
Dominican baseball player Junior Lake hopes to join the Cubs this year, photo by  Tom Haggerty for LakelandLocal.com

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dominican Republic tourism: golf is one of the main attractions

When it comes to Dominican Republic tourism, the Dominican beaches and the all inclusive resorts are the main attraction.  There are splendid beaches on both the north and south coasts of the Dominican Republic.  An American import playing in the Dominican Winter Baseball League (LIDOM) once told me that his friends with the La Romana Toros really had it good, as their living arrangements were in one of the city's many resorts.

Many of the resorts have golf on site, or at least access to a nearby Dominican golf course.  The Dominican golf industry has quickly become the second biggest Dominican Republic tourism attraction, just behind the beaches.  There are some amazing courses, most notably Casa de Campo.  David Ortiz has had his charity gold tournament at Casa de Campo for several years.

The Dominican Baseball Guy has never had the chance to play golf in the Dominican Republic, but he hopes to visit Casa de Campo or one of the other fine courses soon.  If he does get the chance to golf in the Dominican Republic, he will bring these great new premium golf balls he got from Srixon.  I love them because they are not as pricey as some other brands.  They also have a great line of yellow golf balls, which are always fun to take out on the course.  Srixon says that the yellow cover is softer than most, and allows for more spin control.  The Dominican Baseball Guy is not good enough to notice a nuance like this, but I have been having good luck with them lately, so perhaps I do have more spin control.

Most of the Dominican golf courses are in the tourist heavy southern coast of the country.  Hopefully the Dominican Baseball Guy gets to experience this aspect of Dominican Republic tourism soon.
The Srixon yellow golf balls that the Dominican Baseball
Guy has been using on the course lately

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cubs top minor leaguers features 5 Dominican prospects

A recent article listed the top 30 Cubs prospects going into the 2012 season.  Five of the Cubs top 30 minor leaguers are Dominican players.

The highest rated Dominican prospect in the Cubs system is Junior Lake .  Lake is close with fellow Cubs Dominican player Starlin Castro and hopes to join Castro with the Cubs this year.  He has hit .300 in both of his two years in the Cubs system, and hopes to make the jump from AA to the big leagues this year.  According to the list, Lake is the number nine overall prospect in the Cubs system.  Lake is from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

The other top Dominican prospects in the Cubs system were Jeimer Candelario, Marco Hernandez, Wellington Castillo, Rafael Dollis.
Dominican baseball player Junior Lake is the Cubs top Dominican prospect, photo by  Tom Hagerty for LakelandLocal.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dominican Republic and Major League Baseball sign deal on education of Dominican baseball players

The education of prospects has long been a dilemma for Major League Baseball.  This issue only became more complicated when teams started to expand their operations internationally.  Until recently teams generally had no formal educational component to the development of their players.

Slowly, the league and the teams have started to implement programs to educate their players in formal education, as well as off-field issues.  At this point it is mainly language classes and some cultural orientation classes.  Dominican baseball players are some of the most hard hit in this lack of education for several reasons.

Many Dominican players are signed before they even finish high school.  Even if they remain in school, the primary and secondary educational systems in the Dominican Republic leave a lot to be desired.  Lots young Dominicans discontinue their formal education after grade school and enter the workforce, whether they are playing baseball or not.  So, it would not be uncommon for players to eschew schooling in favor of more baseball practice.

But, the fact is the majority of Dominican baseball players signed to an MLB team will not make the major leagues.  So, some sort of education is very beneficial to the whole of Dominican baseball players in the teams Dominican baseball academies.  Even if they make it to play in Major League Baseball, formal education will help them future in business transactions, etc.

The Dominican Republic and Major League Baseball just signed an agreement that will move this bar of education even further than it has been set in recent years.  The new agreement includes Major League Baseball, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Labour, the Dominican National Institute of Technical and Vocational Training, and the Cyber Park technology free zone.

The program will provide education for players in the Dominican baseball academies, and will create a registry of those enrolled in the academies. It will include English classes and other formal education, but also vocational training. It is a good step, and will give Dominican baseball players other options, should their baseball careers not work out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mets Dominican prospect Familia loves bachata, Dominicano Jeurys Familia le gusta bachata

Dominican prospect Jeurys Familia is moving up the Mets ranks nicely.  Last year he had a 3.96 ERA in 87 innings and struck out more than one batter per inning at AA Binghamton.  He is one of a trio of Mets starters that are close to the majors, though he may be the third man in line.  Manager Terry Collins said he could just pitch his way on to the team the way he is playing in spring training.  This from a great article from Mike Kerwick at the Times Herald Record.

Yea, yea, yea, another young Dominican prospect pitcher.  The real story here is that Jeurys Familia LOVES BACHATA.   According to Kerwick, Familia loves Latin music, especially bachata, which translates as "raucous party."

So, this proves that he is Dominican.  The Dominican Baseball Guy does not know much about Familia, but I know that if he loves bachata he must be from the Repulica Dominicana.  Bachata is produced almost exclusively by Dominican artists and for Dominican listeners.  Both bachata (and merengue) run deep in the Dominican Republic musical tradition.  

As I write this post, there are Dominicans dancing and listening to bachata all over the country right now, in front of colmados or in front of their homes or maybe outside their cars with the music turned up all the way right next to their neighbors.  Anyone that has lived in the Dominican Republic knows that noise ordinances do not exist.  The bachata and merengue plays all day and night almost continuously at the highest volume possible.

Shout out to Elvis Martinez and Frank Reyes, two of the most badass bacheteros out there.  Elvis is from San Francisco de Macoris, a city that the Dominican Baseball Guy knows well.  They love Elvis in San Francisco de Macoris.  Frank Reyes is from Boba Arriba, RD.

O yea, Dominican baseball right.  Familia and other Dominican baseball players surely miss that constant hum of merengue and bachata so prevalent in their home country.  Mets Dominican prospect Jeurys Familia es de Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.
Dominican prospect Jeurys Familia piching for the Mets AA team in 2009, by  paul.hadsall on Flickr

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dominican baseball player Vladimir Guerrero to the Marlins, Dominicano Vlad Guerrero a Marlins?

It is no secret that Vladimir Guerrero has been one of the favorite Dominican baseball players of the Dominican Baseball Guy for many years.  He remains in third place all-time among Dominican baseball players in hits, RBI, and home runs, and is second for lifetime average at .318.

Last year, Guerrero signed a one year free agent deal with the Orioles.  By most accounts he had a bad year.  But if you look at the numbers, they are really not that bad.  He hit .290 in 500+ at bats, and had 13 home runs and 63 RBI.  Now these numbers are certainly off his career average, but most MLB players would take these numbers, particularly the .290 average.  The guy hit .290, and this was a bad year.

So it goes for an aging superstar like Dominican baseball player Vladimir Guerrero.  He is unsigned this off-season thus far, but recently told Dominican newspaper EL Caribe that the Marlins and Ozzie Guillen had contacted him.  Most think he is DH at best, and wonder what a National League team would be doing talking to him.  But, Vladimir says that he is still a player that should play every day, even if it is as an outfielder.

It is a wait and see game to see if the Marlins sign him, or if any other team picks him up.  The Dominican Baseball Guy anxiously awaiting to see where he lands.  Pelotero Dominicano Vladimir Guerrero es de Nizao, Republica Dominicana.
Dominican baseball player Vladimir Guerrero hopes to play another year, by Rich Anderson on Flickr

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dominican Republic baseball player Joel Peralta re-signs with Tampa Bay Rays

Joel Peralta has played in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) for 12 strait years, so it meant a lot when he skipped his home country winter league this off-season.  He re-signed with the Rays for one year and $2.75 million.

Rays' manager Joe Maddon expected good last year, but what he got from Peralta was great.  He did not allow a run in 17 of his final 18 appearances, and lefties batted only .157 against him.  He also had six saves when closer Karl Farnsworth went out due to injury.

Fellow Rays' reliever JP Howell says he is happy to have Peralta back.  Howell says that his energy is contagious, and every time he looks at him he feels energized.

The Dominican Baseball Guy saw Peralta play several times in LIDOM action in 2009 for the Gigantes del Cibao.  Sitting in the right field stands, the Gigantes bullpen is inches from the fans.  And the Dominican Baseball Guy attests that Peralta has contagious energy.

Seeing him in person, one can see an always upbeat attitude and love for the game from Peralta.  He would often throw balls with the right fielder in between innings to warm him up (as seen below).  Peralta always threw fouls balls to the stands, and often laughed and joked with fans.  He also kept his bullpen mates alive.  And when he was ready to pitch, he zoned in and became totally serious.  Exactly the kind of attitude needed on a baseball diamond.

The Dominican Baseball Guy thought he had several pictures of Peralta playing with the Gigantes del Cibao in 2009, but this is the only one he found at the moment.  Hey, I know it is not the best picture, but at least it is proof that the Dominican Baseball Guy saw Peralta play with the Gigantes.  Joel is from Bonao, Dominican Republic.
Joel Peralta warms up the right fielder from the Gigantes del Cibao bullpen at the Julian Javier
Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic, photo by Dominican Baseball Guy

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dominican baseball player Carlos Marmol looks for bounce back year, and farms in the Dominican Republic

Carlos Marmol had an off year last season.  After a huge 2010, when he averaged 15.99 K/9 innings, the Dominican Baseball anointed Carlos Marmol best closer in baseball.  But last season he led the MLB in blown saves with 10.

Marmol is looking to rebound, and spent the off-season working on his farms in the Dominican Republic.  Marmol has been around farms his whole life, and went into the business professionally with his brother a few years ago.  Together they own three farms in the Dominican Republic, 700 head of cattle, as well as horses and chickens.  They sell beef and milk, chicken and eggs, and horses throughout the Dominican Republic.

Farming and ranching is perhaps one of the biggest industries in the Dominican Republic.  Virtually all the beef, milk, chicken and eggs, as well as most of the produce, consumed in the country is sourced locally.  This is due, like most of the problems in the country, to lack of infrastructure and an underdeveloped economy.  It is easier to bring the goods to market if they close.  The roads and ports make it difficult to import large amounts of food items, and if international companies cannot import large amounts of goods, it is not worth it to them.

The new age struggle of processed and prepared foods versus locally sourced foods is not even an issue in the Dominican Republic, because the infrastructure is not there to import large amounts of cheap goods.  The Dominican consumer get hurts because they have have almost no options in regards to fresh food.  Non-nonperishable items are imported in large scale and are readily available, especially in the capital and Santiago.

And so it goes.  The process of growing an economy is a complex process.  I am just the Dominican Baseball Guy, and I am not schooled in macro-economics.  But what I know is that developing countries lack basic infrastructure like electricity and roads, and businesses and schools cannot develop without these infrastructural elements.

The Dominican Baseball Guy is also, not in any way, blaming Carlos Marmol or other Dominican farmers for anything.  The people need these food items, and the local farmers are the ones that must provide them at this point.  So saludos to Carlos Marmol and his brother.  The Dominican Baseball Guy wishes them all the best with their three farms in the Dominican Republic.  Carlos is from Bonao, Dominican Republic.
Dominican baseball player Carlos Marmol owns several farms in the Dominican Republic,
photo by Phil Roeder on Flickr
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