Baseball's Next Stars: Dominican Republic's Youth Academies by Colette Weil Parrinello, FACES Magazine, April 2016, Cricket Media, Chicago, IL
Youth academies in the Dominican play an
important role in developing and grooming
baseball athletes. The country is such a fertile
area for talent that there are now academies
run by buscones (buh-scones), private groups,
former professional players, and Major League
Baseball (MLB) teams.
at local facilities or at his residential academy.
Many young players come from poor families
and the buscon invests in them. He translates
for them, feeds and houses them, takes them
under his training wing to prepare them
for competition, and represents them in
negotiations with MLB academy teams.
Dominicans look on buscones favorably
as a partner helping players reach their
goals. The buscon provides coaching and
encouragement, and for some boys, he is a
friend, mentor, or father figure. He invests in
the young player — and in return receives a
portion of the player’s signing bonus from an
MLB academy team.
Players are showcased to MLB team
scouts by the buscones when they are
under 15, but formal tryouts take place at the
academies when players are 16. However,
many of the perceived top prospects have
already made oral agreements through their
buscon agent with a team at age 13, 14, or 15.
The Chicago Cubs $8 million academy
is on 50 acres outside of the capital city of
Santo Domingo. The academy has four fields,
four batting cages, a weight room, and two
locker rooms. The Colorado Rockies academy
can house 80 players. The dormitory rooms
are off the clubhouse, along with a training
room, weight room, cafeteria, computer
room, classroom, and rooms for the staff. The
academies also provide nutritional counseling,
uniforms, English language and culture
Baseball’s Next Stars:
dominican youth academies
The pathway to professional baseball often
starts with a buscon (from the word buscar,
“to search”). A buscon is a self-styled agent or
talent scout. He identifies players with potential
sometimes when they are as young as 12 or
13, and keeps his eye on others as young as
eight. With more than 1,000 buscones looking
for talent, it is highly competitive and the
buscon may hire handlers to be the first to
spot young talent. The buscon may help the
families financially and provide baseball training
by Colette Weil Parrinello
An academy prospect works out at a facility.
English language classes are often offered to the players.
A shadow puppeteer
must be able to juggle
many roles at once!
training, and additional schooling.
Some provide Cenapec classes
(long distance learning for GED —
General Education Development
or high school graduation
equivalency) for 10th, 11th and 12th
graders in all subjects, although
it is not a requirement for the
But being accepted by an
academy is not a sure sign a player
will make it to the major leagues —
in fact under 5 percent will do so.
Less than 50 percent will make it to
the minor leagues. The competition
is fierce at the academies. When
young players receive their signing
bonus from the MLB academy
team, many need to be reminded
that they haven’t already “made it.”
If they are cut from the team, and
are not from a middle class family,
they leave the academy with
limited, if any, education or job
training and broken dreams.
But every player with a bat or
a strong arm hopes that they will
become the next Albert Pujols or
Pedro Martinez — and it just might
happen because of their love of the
game, a hunger to leave the island
for the American dream, their
talent, and the professional training. All Major League teams run academies in the Dominican Republic.