SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Something remarkable happened recently at the Royals' Dominican Republic Academy: Fourteen of their players received their high school degrees.That may not sound extraordinary to some. But considering that it is common in the Dominican Republic Academy for aspiring baseball players to drop out of school at age
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Something remarkable happened recently at the Royals' Dominican Republic Academy: Fourteen of their players received their high school degrees.
That may not sound extraordinary to some. But considering that it is common in the Dominican Republic Academy for aspiring baseball players to drop out of school at age 13 or 14 in hopes of getting signed, an inaugural graduation class is a big deal.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"It's definitely something to be proud of," Royals cultural development director Jeff Diskin said. "And we certainly are."
Make no mistake, the Academy is a baseball institution first. But Diskin and Monica Ramirez, the education and Latin initiatives assistant, and Johan Febrillet, the Academy lead educator, helped construct an educational curriculum a few years back that paved the way for the inaugural graduation class.
"It was a formal graduation ceremony that our players and 68 other Minor League players took part in," Diskin said. "They all passed La Prueba Nacional [the federal high school exam] to earn their high school degrees."
It's all part of the plan to develop Royals' Latin players on and off the field.
"We're just trying to develop the whole player so they can feel good about themselves," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "It creates a confidence and trust between the player and the organization."
Some of the graduating class will be familiar to Royals fans:
• INF Rubendy Jaquez was the Academy Player of the Year in 2017, and the Surprise, Ariz., Player of the Year in 2018.
• LF Neyfi Marinez, who graduated with honors, was the DR Academy Team 2 Player of the Year.
• RHP Leandro Mendez also graduated with honors.
• SS Enrique Valdez was the DR Academy Team 1 Player of the Year in 2018.
"The Royals have invested in these players as people and as baseball players," Diskin said. "All of our players share one very important thing in common -- baseball."
The Royals originally established the Academy in 1986 in a more rural part of the Dominican. They eventually moved to Guerra in 2007, 30 minutes east of Santo Domingo, after Moore arrived in 2006. Then a state-of-the-art facility was constructed in Guerra in 2012.
The facility houses 72 players who participate in the Dominican Summer League each season. The facility has dormitories, full kitchens, classrooms, a computer lab, recreation rooms, dining facilities and two and one-half baseball fields.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.