Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dominican baseball academies: place to learn baseball and English too

Most followers of the Dominican Baseball Guy, or Dominican baseball in general, know that the Dominican baseball academies of the MLB teams are an important part in the development of Dominican prospects.  Every team now has an academy in the Dominican Republic.

The original point of the Dominican baseball academies was to develop the baseball skills of young Dominican players.  And the academies have done a pretty good job at that over the last twenty plus years.

But recently the need to teach young Dominican players life skills and English has been moved to close to an equal field with the players developing their on-field game.  The Dominican Republic and MLB recently signed an agreement that put forth the steps and the infrastructure necessary to educate young players on English and cultural differences between the Dominican Republic and the United States.  The agreement also allows for the creation of vocational programs to teach Dominican prospects other job skills in case a career in baseball does not work out.

So, the government of the Dominican Republic and MLB seem to be moving in a good direction in regards to educating their Dominican prospects.

More evidence that MLB and their teams are making an effort to better prepare their Dominican players for a life after baseball: a Northeastern University student recently served as an intern with the Red Sox in their Dominican baseball academy, and worked as an education consultant.

Roberto Lavin served as a translator, English teacher, and cultural consultant for the Red Sox Dominican prospects.  According to Lavin, learning English was a focus for all the Red Sox prospects, but especially for catchers:
“The Red Sox would always talk about how essen­tial Eng­lish is for all posi­tion players, but to a catcher, Eng­lish is really a neces­sity,” he explained. “I worked closely with young catchers, tutoring them fre­quently and sim­u­lating catcher-​​pitcher mound interactions.”
But the focus was not only on learning English.  Cultural anthropologists, such as the Dominican Baseball Guy, know the importance of learning about a culture before someone is thrust into a new country and culture full force.  Dominican prospects face culture shock and may have ethnocentric views that inhibit their assimilation into a new culture.  That is where education consultants such as Roberto Lavin serve an important role in the Dominican academies.  Eddie Romero, the Red Sox director of international scouting spoke to this:
“Roberto did a ter­rific job of assisting our young Latin players in not only learning Eng­lish, but also in preparing them for the Amer­ican cul­ture once they got to the States,” said Eddie Romero, the Red Sox director of inter­na­tional scouting.
The Dominican Baseball Guy feels that MLB teams have made a great effort in these regards.  The majority of teams now have a coordinator of cultural immersion for Latin players.  And most prospects that spend some time in a Dominican baseball academy are more prepared to live in the United States, and/or work in a field outside baseball, than they were before entering the academy.  While the teams could spend more money and hire more staff in these areas, the league has come a long way in this regard and seems to be on the right track to grow these programs, as the international presence of the game grows.

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