It isn't any secret to fans of professional baseball in this country that the reason scouting efforts in the Dominican Republic are so intense is that young ballplayers can be signed cheaply.
Much more cheaply than young people who grow up in this country -- who have expectations of signing bonuses and big contracts from Day One!
ADMITTEDLY, BASEBALL CLUBS have boosted their efforts somewhat. The days when a San Pedro de Macoris teenager could be offered a mere $3,500 -- only to develop into slugger Sammy Sosa -- are in the past.
They get a little more now, although not much more.
But the degree to which baseball organizations treat these young Latin Americans as cattle is overwhelming. Mother Jones magazine has come up with a story detailing the many training camps operated by U.S. ballclubs in hopes of finding the next great Latin American star.
The magazine seems particularly appalled at the lack of trained medical personnel kep on staff at these training camps. Although I find it more appalling that a Dominican kid can be considered all washed up, over the hill and too old to be a real prospect at age 18 -- the same age that a U.S. citizen must be in order to sign a professional baseball contract.
THE STORY IS worth reading. And you don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the detail.
Although a part of me must confess that I look out my window and see the snow residue, along with the anticipation of many more inches of snow to fall in coming days, and I wish I could be at a training camp -- pondering the degree to which baseball will be the best thing to happen to the lives of one or two of these young prospects.
And the absolute worst thing that could happen to all the rest of them, because it spits them out and leaves them with no other options in life.