Target: Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Goal: Demand better conditions in academies for Major League Baseball’s Dominican recruits, including doctors and certified trainers.
On April 15th, 2011, 18-year-old Yewri Guillén died as a result of an infection caused by bacterial meningitis. At the time of his death, Yewri Guillén had recently finished training without pay for Major League Baseball at Boca Chica, the Nationals’ academy, and although MLB was preparing a contract with him, the contract had not been finalized. Guillén did not have health insurance. Without insurance, Yewri’s family could not come up with the money necessary for admission to a private hospital.
This tragedy could have been prevented had Major League Baseball placed doctors and certified athletic trainers at Boca Chica. There is a considerable difference between the treatment Major League Baseball gives to its domestic players versus what it provides for players abroad. In the minor leagues of the United States, MLB requires all teams to have certified trainers and medical services on hand. These requirements do not carry over into the Dominican teams.
With many in the Dominican Republic living in poverty, Major League Baseball’s recruiting practices, substandard care for players, lack of benefits, and pushing players to train in dangerous environments, seems immensely predatory. These hiring practices and the facilities they place young boys (some as young as 16) in are worthy of the title “sweatshop.” Arturo J. Marcano Guevara has written a book called Stealing Lives, in which he documents a Dominican academy of the Chicago Cubs where 19 teenagers shared one bathroom without running water, where a drunken coach threatened players with a gun, and where one boy who dislocated his shoulder was treated so poorly by a “doctor” (someone hired from the street as opposed to a certified professional on hand) that he was never able to play again. The former player, Alexis Quiroz, has never recovered complete use of his arm. The “doctor” had stomped on it.
These conditions are unacceptable. Sign this petition to tell Major League Baseball that Latin American citizens should not be treated like second class prospects.
Dear Mr. Selig,
I am writing to implore you to mandate better conditions for Major League Baseball’s recruits in the Dominican Republic. Just as teams in the United States have medical supplies and certified athletic trainers on hand in their academies, so should teams in the Dominican Republic. In addition, it is a concern that Major League Baseball is signing up boys who are too young for the kinds of rigorous strain placed on their bodies by this kind of high intensity sport. In the United States, it is mandatory for recruits to have completed high school, but Dominican recruits can be signed up while being as young as 16.
These hiring practices and the conditions of facilities in the Dominican Republic must change. It is not fair to Dominican teenagers to prey on their poverty by hiring them with promises of money in exchange for substandard medical care without mandated, certified trainers. Major League Baseball would do right by its recruits and its own reputation if labor practices were improved for Latin American recruits. Raise age limits, provide better medical services and certified trainers. Ensure that no young people are being sent to train in places where there are dangerous conditions and no pay. With the amount of money at its disposal, Major League Baseball can most assuredly afford to do all of these things. Please improve conditions for these recruits.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: UCinternational via Wikimedia Commons