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MLB to tackle prospects' language barriers

Pilot program in DR initiated to help teach reading, writing, critical thinking

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- An educational program designed to improve reading, writing, critical thinking and English skills for teenage prospects in the Dominican Republic was among the many topics discussed Tuesday at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort during the annual meeting of international scouting directors.

"We at Major League Baseball care about the prospects going to school; it is just the right thing to do," said Rafael Perez, director of Dominican operations for MLB. "We are also helping released players and giving them a chance to finish school, get a technical career and learn English. There are opportunities."

Seven clubs have signed up to participate in the 20-week pilot program that starts next month, Perez said.

"Our research identified that, unfortunately, the Dominican Republic has a very strong deficiency in their public schools because of the infrastructure, methodology and the deficiency among the teachers and hours in school, and as a result the players, as well as the general population among a certain age, have a deficiency in reading comprehension and deficiencies in math," Perez said. "In the end, that's one of the main reasons our players have a problem learning a second language. The program is about facing those challenges."

According to Perez, prospects in the program will receive at least nine hours of instruction each week. The results of the program could eventually lead to a league-wide initiative in Latin America.

"Every club wants to have their own program, and we cannot tell a club how to develop its players because ultimately it's their decision on what they feel is best for them, but we do want to provide a framework of a program," Perez said. "Being a good baseball player is no different than being a good executive in terms of understanding what you are supposed to do and executing. It's ultimately about giving the prospects the foundation to help them make good decisions in order to learn and succeed at the game."

Other topics discussed during the annual meeting included the registration process for prospects eligible to sign July 2, the newly signed Winter League agreement and an update on MLB's Amateur Prospect League and showcase events.

The MLB Amateur Prospect League international showcase for the top 50 players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other parts of Latin America is scheduled for Jan. 22-23 in the Dominican Republic. MLB held a showcase for the top prospects from the Dominican Republic in September and two showcases in Valencia, Venezuela, during the past three months.

"Overall, this was a good opportunity to get in front of all 30 clubs and give updates on what we have been doing, get their feedback on some processes and just make sure we are addressing their needs as a central office here to service the clubs," said Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American game development for MLB. "In addition to our international showcase in January, we are also having a showcase in Puerto Rico for the top Draft-eligible players for 2014 in the same week."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB.