Dominican showcase helping prospects grow

Players hone crafts, gain knowledge with Trainer Partnership Program

February 20th, 2019

BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic -- The gap that separates the pros from the amateurs this week at the Mets' academy is about 10 yards wide. It's lined with 15-foot palm trees and manicured hedges with an orange sidewalk running through the middle of it.

On Field No. 1, there are 130 players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela showing off their skills in front of scouts at Major League Baseball's Trainer Partnership Program showcase in the hopes of securing a deal for July 2, the start of the international signing period. On Field No. 2, the Mets' international prospects, most of whom signed during the past two years, are getting ready to leave the island for Spring Training in the United States.

The present and the future of international baseball have never been so close and the Trainer Partnership Program, an MLB initiative with trainers from Latin America, is what is tying them together.

The program, created last summer as part of MLB's overall efforts in Latin America, is celebrating its fourth showcase. It's the first time players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are being featured in the same event.

"We've grown substantially since we started about nine months ago and we have trainers signing up on a rolling basis now," said Morgan Sword, senior vice president of league economics and operations for Major League Baseball. "... Our clubs are clearly showing a lot of support, so we're very happy with that."

The showcase began Tuesday with a 60-yard run, and continued with infield and outfield drills, along with batting practice for the prospects eligible to sign during the current and upcoming international signing periods. The teens were separated into four teams and played one game in front of more than 200 scouts in attendance.
More batting practice and games are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. This week's showcase -- a partnership with USA Baseball -- also features cameras that measure exit velocity, launch angle, ball spin and projected distance as well as bat speed, barrel speed and other swing analysis metrics during batting practice. In addition to TrackMan data, types of pitches, velocity and spin rate are also being recorded.

"We're using these events for three primary purposes," Sword said. "One is to showcase the best players in Latin America to the clubs. The second is to test out some new scouting technology that's up and coming, that you see in the States and other high-level scouting areas. The last is to conduct a series of discussions with the trainers about our policies and the way MLB operates down here. We're looking forward to doing all those things."
In all, there are more than 1,100 players, 28 trainers from Venezuela and 38 trainers from the Dominican Republic participating in the Training Partnership Program. Among its many initiatives, the partnership includes a focus on prospect registration, age and identity verification and drug testing.
"I really support this program because we all just want to do it the right way," said John Carmona, a trainer from the Dominican Republic. "I think we were all starting to feel like things were getting out of control, but now we are getting back to the right values and the understanding that health and education are just as important or more important than the bonus a player gets. MLB has been very good about listening to us."