Sunday, July 27, 2008

Exploiting Young Baseball Athletes' Talents and Dreams in the Dominican Republic

This case of scouts and officials stealing bonuses from Dominican players is beyond shameful. The fact that scouts and local "buscones" were willing to pocket bonus money from poor players just trying to use their talents and their dreams to afford a better life for themselves and their families is more than bad enough. Preying on (usually poor) young men's dreams and hopes to further your own (already comparably considerable) financial well-being is disgusting.

Yet as bad as that is, I'm also really disturbed by how exploited the players clearly are, and how cowed all the young players interviewed in the article seem. It's not just that nobody knows anybody who is a victim of the scandal, even while they know of the scandal themselves; it's that nobody even seems to want to know about it. They just want to learn English, improve their hitting or pitching, and hopefully one day play major league baseball. These men and their dreams are so dependent on these apparently slimy (from the little information provided about them in the article) buscones that they don't even want to talk about the possible graft, simply because it would damage their chances at arriving at the major leagues. Of course, if these kids make it to the MLB, their paychecks will probably be more than the money skimmed off of them, but not all of them are going to make it that far; the bonuses they should be receiving would at least help them and their families out in very significant ways. Yet you have these scouts and buscones skimming and getting rich, as I said, off these young men's dreams and talents.

Clearly, this is not just a problem among a few ballclubs scouting in the Dominican, either. For all the rules and regulations in place in the U.S. in terms of drafting and hiring high school and college baseball players, there is virtually no institutional oversight in the Americas, and MLB's institutional and regulatory presence is minimal. I don't know what can be done about this - it's really going to take concerted efforts of the MLB to try to extend its authority over scouts and companies helping young baseball players in the Caribbean region. Of course, this doesn't preclude the cooperation with local scouts and officials, but there clearly has to be some kind of oversight. Otherwise, people like the unscrupulous scouts and preying buscones will have free reign, and you'll have more cases like the one emerging in the Dominican. It's just revolting, and I really hope that the scouts and buscones involved with this are prosecuted, blackballed, and totally removed from any contact with potential professional baseball players. I also equally hope that the conditions under which these young men struggle to make it improve enough that they can actually feel comfortable coming out when people prey on them and fight for their own rights without feeling like such activities would effectively prevent them from ever realizing their dream.