Future D-backs develop in Dominican Instrux

Prospects hone fundamentals in contests vs. other MLB academies

November 13th, 2016
D-backs prospects start their days with drills before battling other academies in Instructional League games. (D-backs)

This may be surprising, but baseball season is far from over. In fact, it's very much alive and well down in the Dominican Republic, where young Latin American prospects are participating in the Instructional League. For the D-backs, this occurs at the team's academy in a part of Boca Chica called Baseball City.

This year, the D-backs have about 96 players in two teams participating in their Instructional League program. From mid-October through the end of November, the players are put through the Dominican version of Major League Spring Training, spending the early mornings working on drills before participating in games against other academies.

D-backs take pride in their Dominican academy

"Why we do it is to give these young players more experience and get them on the field, which they all need because they are so young," said D-backs field/infield coordinator Tony Perezchica. The average age at the academy is just under 18, and Perezchica explained that many had never received organized instruction before signing with the team.

"These young guys, a lot of them are starting from scratch," Perezchica said. "They're learning where to position themselves, learning what an approach is on the offensive side, learning how to get a lead."

D-backs Instructional League field coordinator Rolando Arnedo is responsible for ensuring the players are building their game from the ground up, which sometimes means forcing them to start all over.

"We have to change their minds," Arnedo said. "We have to work on the fundamentals, because you can't play in the States if you can't dominate the fundamentals."

Because the players live at the academy, the D-backs can get them started bright and early. A typical morning of practice starts at 7:30 a.m., when select players focus on personalized drills. Then pitchers and position players are split up to begin stretching about an hour later before starting the daily program.

The drills may seem basic for highly regarded prospects, but Perezchica says it's necessary.

"They're just not used to cutoffs and relays, they're not used to the pickoffs and rundowns, and it's our job as coaches and evaluators to keep giving those the reps," Perezchica explained. "The more they do it, the better. The game slows down for them."

As for the games, they take place at just 10:30 a.m., perhaps the biggest departure from an Arizona Spring Training. But many of the games are played against one of the other four MLB teams that have their academy within walking distance in Baseball City. The early games allow the players to have their afternoon free for school, which is provided free of charge by the D-backs, as well as weight training and recovery.

Though many of the players who participate never make it to the United States, the ones who do can trace the roots of their game to what they learned in the Instructional League.

"We're just trying to get them to have a plan," Arnedo said. "Everything they have to do is to have a good preparation. If you have good preparation, you have a better chance to have a good game."