Melendez is retiring after 29 years with Major League Baseball. He spent 17 years as a lawyer in the MLB Labor Department, and the last 12 years as vice president of international operations. In that capacity he opened the MLB office in the Dominican Republic in 2000, and since then has worked with player education and community outreach in the Dominican Republic.
Melendez will be a panelist for the event's discussion on Dominican baseball, as will DRSEA co-founder Charles S. Farrell, along with several other panel guests.
Mr. Farrell has worked with diversity and equity in sports for many years. He is a founder at Sports Perspectives International and directed Rainbow Sports, a division of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He has testified before Congress on racial equity in sports and been published many times on the issue. Mr. Farrell first worked with MLB on Dominican baseball in 2000 and then again in 2004.
In a phone conversation with the Dominican Baseball Guy, Mr. Farrell recalled those first conferences and why he decided to start the DRSEA. “The first question that prospects asked was ‘how do I open a bank account?’ After that my partner Harold [Mendez] and I came up with the concept for an academy, and our end goal was that education is the critical thing.
“We figured we could use these guy’s baseball skills to get them into colleges, and even if they did not make it in baseball, they would have the education and could return to the Dominican Republic and be leaders of their communities.”
Mr. Farrell moved to the Dominican Republic in 2008 to work full time on getting the DRSEA off the ground. “We developed an education program for the DRSEA that includes English, math, history, but also critical thinking and the ability to analyze information effectively. The culture shock [for a Dominican player coming to the US] in itself can be horrendous. Anything you can do to help educate them to help make decisions on their feet is a positive.”
Farrell feels that MLB and baseball investors have the responsibility to help educate their Dominican prospects. “Any entity that invests $125 million into a community has a responsibility to do something positive. They are getting a lot out of the country, so I think education is the least they can provide for the players. And only the Pirates have a mandatory education program for Dominican prospects.”
Farrell hopes MLB teams continue to improve educational aspects fo their development programs, but he is not going to wait around on the teams. The DRSEA plans to provide high level high school educations to Dominican baseball prospects. The goal is to open in September. The DRSEA plans to share facilities with a local school and a local baseball academy until they raise enough money to have their own facilities.
Farrell wants kids to realize that both baseball and education are options:
We are looking for that kid whose objective is to get an education AND play baseball. That’s really our goal is to develop top-notch college players, and if they reach a level where they can play professionally then fine. We want them to have the option like US high school players that get drafted. They can choose to go strait to the minor leagues, or they can say ‘I want to go to college and play and get my education and then go to the professional ranks.’ Isn’t it great to have that option?Farrell is excited about the possibilities DRSEA can bring to Dominican youth ballplayers. He is also ready for the event in New York on Friday: “It is a two-fold event, to have a moment to honor Lou Melendez, and a critical discussion about what is going on in Dominican Baseball.”
The mission of the DRSEA is "to educate young and gifted student athletes in the Dominican Republic, help develop their baseball skills and give them the tools to success in life on and off the field." The DRSEA aims to prepare boys to have the opportunity for college scholarships through its educational programs. Please visit the DRSEA website for more info on the conference and/or to make a donation.