SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez took a seat in a white plastic chair under a canopy high above the third-base line and crossed his legs, squeezing into a crowd of people gathered to watch some top teens play ball. He checked his phone one last
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez took a seat in a white plastic chair under a canopy high above the third-base line and crossed his legs, squeezing into a crowd of people gathered to watch some top teens play ball. He checked his phone one last time and then folded his arms.
A military helicopter thumped overhead as it flew over the diamond.
Martinez, a World Series champion and three-time Cy Young Award winner, is a legend in baseball and one of the most recognizable faces on the island. But earlier this week, the superstar blended in among other anxious parents and hundreds of scouts in the stands.
The next hitter, a right-handed-hitting third baseman with some pop named Pedro Martinez Jr., was announced over the public address system. And everybody knew who his daddy was.
"I'm here to support him and show him that I care and that I want what's best for him," Martinez, 45, said. "He's a fun kid. He's a good kid. Very polite and not just because he's my son. He's well educated and a playful kid. That's what he is."
Martinez Jr., 16, who stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 185 pounds, is one of 120 prospects showcasing their talents this week in the International Prospect League International Showcase on a field in the middle of an active air force base, east of downtown. Martinez Jr. can also play first base and has shown off the strong right arm that runs in the family. He might not be the fastest runner on the field, but he can hit with power and scouts like his swing.
"Pedro Martinez Jr. is a good prospect and we've spent the last six months getting to know him," Amauris Nina, president and one of the founders of the IPL, said. "He's been pretty impressive. He hit three home runs in his first five games so that tells you something. You can say he has the family talent but as a hitter, not a pitcher."
The four-day IPL International Showcase for prospects eligible to sign when the international signing period starts on July 2 began Tuesday with a 60-yard dash, followed by infield and outfield practice, and batting practice. The prospects -- made up of players from Aruba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico and Venezuela -- also played two games each day this week. A showcase for players eligible to sign during the 2018 international period is scheduled for Saturday.
"We come from different places and situations, but these players all have the same tools and abilities and desire," said Jose Luis Montero, president of IPL Venezuela. "For us in Venezuela, it's a very difficult time to be in the country and I believe more players are getting involved in baseball as a way of escaping our tough political, social and economic situation. It's a stable profession and events like this give our kids hope and a chance that maybe one day they can be a pro."
The international prospect landscape continues to evolve. The A's, Braves, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Padres, Reds and Royals will not be able to sign international prospects for more than $300,000 during the next international signing period because they are in the maximum penalty. The Angels, D-backs, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees will no longer be limited to signing players for $300,000 or less, and are expected to be busy on the international front in 2017.
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There are expectations that the Brewers, Rangers, Rockies and Twins will also be active during the next international signing period.
The rules for signing international prospects are changing for the signing period that starts July 2. According to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, every team will get at least $4.75 million to spend on international prospects. Any team receiving a Competitive Balance Round A pick in the Draft will get $5.25 million in international bonus pool money. Additionally, teams receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick will have $5.75 million to spend.
A club can trade as much of its international pool money it would like, but there is a limit -- 75 percent of a team's initial pool -- to how much one team can acquire.
Times have changed. Pedro Martinez signed with the Dodgers for $6,500 in 1988. His son is expected to command a six-figure signing bonus.
"The kids are a little bit younger and less developed, but at the same time, it gives them a great opportunity for exposure," the elder Martinez said. "They have an opportunity that probably if you were not really, really, really good before, you would not get. The news has spread that there is talent in the Dominican Republic and that's pretty much what everybody is looking at right now."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.