If you've payed any attention when in the Dominican Republic you've noticed how baseball dominates the sports culture. Many guys you meet will tell you of their current, or past, exploits on the diamond. I came across the following article and found it interesting enough to share with you.
MAJOR LEAGUE DREAMS
Everybody has the dream. The prospect of untold riches is affecting the way Dominican players are signed and scouted like never before.
These days, baseball generates money more easily than just about any other industry in the Dominican Republic, whose top exports are sugar, cofee, tobacco, rum, merengue and ball players, not necessarily in that order.
In 2003, there were 860 foreign-born players signed to professional contracts by major league clubs.
Of that number, an astounding 55 percent were from this tiny island.
The dream is money. The major leagues have always been a way out of poverty here, but now it is more so than ever. With players like Ramirez make $20 million per year and other top name Dominican players with huge contracts; Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Miguel Tajada and others.
Many Dominican players spend their winters at home. So, their wealth can be seen by youngsters still trying to make it.
The players in the Dominican Republic are free agents. For now, at least, they are'nt subject to baseball's amateur draft. When a talented player comes along, it's open season for scouts, agents and the buscadores(or bird dogs) who act as go-betweens and collect finders fees when they deliver a young player to a scout or agent.
It is unfortunate that the wealth of the major leagues has not made it into the very place where they get the leagues hottest talent. Recently, a 16-year old shortstop named Bartolo DePaula was signed to a contract. His bonus check was only $8000 dollars. A bargain for the Brewers, a fortune for his family.
In a country where many youngsters are desperately poor, there are still Major League dreams; still scouts and agents who'll get rich trying to make dreams come true.
Click here for a list of Dominican players/profiles in Major League Baseball.
Alicia Patterson has an insightful look at some players and what happens when a dream's defered.