Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dominican players in Astros system learning English

This is becoming a trend.  As every single team now has a Dominican baseball academy where they send recent signees from the Dominican Republic and other Latin countries, lately it seems that most MLB teams have cultural development programs to educate these players in English and American cultural mores.

The Astros are perhaps one of the most advanced organization when it comes to developing Latin baseball players.  They have been in Latin America for several decades and were one of the first teams to open an academy in Venezuela, before moving their Latin operations to the Dominican Republic.  Two years ago, the team opened a brand new facility in Santo Domingo, the Capital of the Dominican Republic.

Doris Gonzalez was recently hired as Astros’ coordinator of player acculturation and language development. In this position she creates programs to educate Dominican and Latin players in English and in life skills.  According to Gonzalez:
These kids have not experienced a lot of things that we are so used to on a day-to-day basis over here because some of them come from extreme poverty,” she said. “I feel like this program is to not just teach basic English, but to create a complete program that is going to help these players feel part of the culture.
Players are required to attend classes daily and are fined if they do not attend, just like if they miss practice.  While these programs are new and players may have been resistant in the past because they wanted to focus exclusively on baseball, the current generation of player understands the need to develop skills that will help them after their playing career is over. 

According to Edison Frias, a Dominican pitcher in the Astros system, "it helps us not just in baseball, in sports, because baseball isn’t permanent."

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