The 2013 Dominican Summer League is starting on June 1st and the Mets have two teams there, as well as players that they have signed or might sign working out there. The reason that the Mets have two teams in the Dominican Summer League is that the second team is a replacement for their once Venezuelan League team. It was disbanded in favor of the second DSL team as tensions and violence grew in Venezuela.
In mid-July of 2008, when I was 18 years old, I was sent to get a look at the new Dominican Complex that the Mets had built in Boca Chica. After volunteering in a micro-credit foundation called Esperanza International, I had lived in several places in the Dominican Republic such as Quisqueya, a little village near San Pedro De Macrois for a week, a weekend in Santo Dominigo, and another week in Puerto Plata, before heading to the Academy. It had not achieved its inauguration until the day I was leaving the facility, but I had lived there among the players and coaches, and found myself immersed in Dominican Baseball.
This new complex, located in Boca Chica, stood tall among the trees, with beauty throughout. It had modern design, with glass-panes covering their center where the players would relax on their free time. It was state-of-the-art – it had TV’s with cable and many table games in the center. It also had its own locker room and a very large gym. There were 2 fields and one still being developed at the time. The main field where players would go was modeled after the dimensions of Citi Field, and the second field had its own, larger dimensions. The third field was being developed still at the time, and only had an infield to practice on.
I hung around with players from the Academy, and new signees such as Aderlin Rodriguez, and scouts such as Ismael Cruz. On some road games, I accompanied the players to games in other complexes on their buses. On other days, I sat and watched players work out as Cruz and other scouts watched from the bird’s nest that had been built to watch over all of the fields.
We would sit and watch the tryouts of these players, watch the guns, and test players for speed. I learned a few important lessons about scouting Dominican players. I learned about timing and approach, as well as the slide-step delivery. I also learned the difficult nature of scouting the players, such as age. I watched an 18-year-old hit 91 MPH on the gun and pointed it out to Ismael. He told me that his age might be wrong. That knowledge has been reflected in the recent discoveries about age falsifications surrounding some players. Lying about their age affects their signing bonus, and if they can hit 90 MPH at 16-18 years of age, it’s a bigger bonus.
I stayed at the Dominican Complex for a couple of weeks back in 2008 and have fond memories of my experience there that I would like to share. I also did some digging around the organization and recently interviewed a front office official that has experience working at the complex. This official. who prefers to remain nameless, gave me some information as part of a look-in to the operations of the Dominican Complex.
During my interview, I asked him a few questions about operations down there, including schedules, what amateur level they can be compared to, and a few other things. This interview took place on May 10th. Enjoy!
Are people already there at the Dominican academy?
Yes, there are people there. We’ve had players work out there since Mid-April. We actually had some exhibition games yesterday. We have players here that we have signed that are getting work in for the season. We want to make sure to get in as much work as possible.
Can you compare them to any kind of league, high school or college?
Well, yes, probably college, but the developmental times are different between them. College guys are a bit more polished than these guys at this point. Honestly, the experience levels are different between these two levels, it’s like apples and oranges.
What happens on a regular day?
They usually start with breakfast in the cafeteria, then early work from 6:30-7:00. Then they have a morning meeting at 8:15. After that, they practice on the field until 10:00 when the game begins. Players tend to get a lot of work in the early, early morning. After games, we hold some players back after to get extra work in.
After the games, they eat, and have classes to learn English using Rosetta Stone. They also have teachers, as well as Continuing Education classes for players more advanced with their English.
What happens with players who tryout here?
The tryout players will come through and work out here, and we evaluate them. The ones we like, we sign. They work out and stay with us during the summer. Some International Free Agents have worked out here and signed with us or other teams.
Do you host the Dominican Prospect League?
We host the DPL’s, along with the rest of the league. We sometimes get more games due to the fact that we have a newer complex. (The Dominican Prospect League is for young players at 15-17 to show their ability to different professional organizations. They appear at every complex on the island, with different teams.)
How many fields do you have?
We have 3 full fields with a half-field for infield practice. There is plenty of room for each team, as well as the people working out at the complex.
How many people does the complex house?
Capacity was 90 players, and has staff housing as well. But a lot of staff live in a small renovated home on the complex that is not part of the main building.
I appreciate sharing this with all of you, my readers, and hope you appreciated this look into the Dominican Summer League Complex.