The Dominican Republic has become a notorious hotbed for Major League Baseball teams to find big-time players over the past few decades, according to Alan Klein, a Northeastern University sociology-anthropology professor who spoke at the University on Wednesday.
Klein was interviewed by Talmage Boston, a Dallas lawyer and sports writer, on his research in the Dominican Republic baseball and his new book “Dominican Baseball: Old Pride, New Prejudices.” With the population of professional baseball players in MLB from the Dominican Republic sitting between 20 to 25 percent, Klein began researching the Dominican baseball culture.
In the interview, Klein said the significant amount of Dominican baseball players in MLB today resulted from academies built in the Dominican Republic in the 1980s.
“Once we got to the mid to late ’80s, academies were being developed,” Klein said. “[Academies] took players who were coming through the Dominican amateur system, they signed them to contracts with major league clubs … they grew them into the kind of ball players that could move into the United States.”
Klein said that today there are a number of academies ranging at different levels. In charge of these academies are people who are known as “buscones.” Buscones are in charge of looking for young Dominican players who they can bring into their academies in hopes of sending them to the MLB.
“[The buscone’s job] is to find that 12- or 13-year-old boy and to literally train him to be a sufficient caliber of player so they might entice some team at tryouts,” Klein said. “It’s a process of up to five years.”
According to Klein, this often leads to the children neglecting their education.
“When you approach this problem, you have a 13-year-old boy who neglects his education with the idea of investing all of his energy in, and future in, academies,” Klein said.
Boston said Dominicans live off very little income, which gives families incentive to have their kids sent to these academies and on to the MLB.
“[Players] start out incredibly poor making a dollar and a quarter a day,” Boston said. “He’s taken out of his family … they get put into these buscone arrangements … so that they’ll be in a position to get drafted.”
Communications professor Mike Cramer added that young Dominicans who grow up in poverty use baseball as a way out.
“The kids in the Dominican who grow up with nothing — they’re literally playing with sticks and rocks and newspapers on their hands instead of gloves,” Cramer said. “They see the way out as baseball. Sports has been a way out for years for people.”