MLB’s Dominican Sweatshop

Baseball’s Dominican Sweatshop

Please read THIS to view the complete original story from Mother Jones.

This season’s story is different than what Baseball Revival has presented in the past. In recent years, we have publicized triumphant stories about groups of people and communities who have overcome natural disasters, violence and poverty to pursue their dream of playing baseball. These prior uplifting and good-hearted recounts were chosen to display how baseball has rescued communities from devastation and turmoil. The purpose of this year’s story is to spread awareness of how Major League Baseball has trampled over the rights of foreign prospects in what journalist Ian Gordon calls, “MLB’s Dominican Sweatshop System.” It is our hope that you read this story and pass it along to others so that we can better understand why we must call upon MLB’s leaders to fix baseball’s dark side.

In 2009, the Washington Nationals signed a 16 year-old Dominican boy named Yewri Guillén to a contract worth $30,000. Like many young Dominican and other Latin American players, baseball is the only escape from lifelong poverty, trouble and violence. Guillén’s story was in the works to become a happy-ever-after, but in April 2011 on the day he was to leave for the United States to begin training in Florida he died. Yewri was 18.

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Guillén’s relatives share memories after Yewri’s death.

It was later reported that Guillén had contracted bacterial meningitis, a disease that could have been easily cured by the right professional team and medical staff. Further investigation showed that MLB’s lack of stringent health insurance and medical regulations for Dominican players led to Guillén’s death. If he had been an American player, he would have been treated quickly and medical costs would have been paid by the Nationals.

This story is not meant to be a knock on the Nationals for there are plenty of other teams that follow the same procedures. In fact, 21 of 30 teams lack certified medical trainers in baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. Instead, we posted this story with the intention of highlighting MLB’s lack of initiative on reversing this human rights failure. This story is a glimpse into the unethical and immoral world of the manipulation and exploitation of foreign-born players who seek baseball as a way out of a life bound to poverty, corruption and violence.

Why should you care about this story?

1. First and foremost, Yewri Guillén’s story represents how American athletic enterprises cheat the system. They twist and bend the rules to suit their financial and player development needs without placing the life and health of the player as their main priority. It is a moral and human rights issue.

2. The Dominican Republic is the second highest producer of major league talent next to the United States. Dominicans play a greater role in the game today than ever before. We, therefore, must respect their talent and contributions to baseball by treating Dominican youth as we would American youth.

Dominican Republic wins WBC

The Dominicana team, a roster full of MLB stars, celebrates as it wins the 2013 World Baseball Classic title.

3. America’s reputation is not only at stake, but so is that of baseball’s. The United States has the opportunity to diversify and internationalize the sport more than ever. If we present the game and what goes on behind it in an ethical and respectful way then other nations will follow suit.

4. Most of us agree baseball is one of the best games in the world, so let’s keep it this way by leaving the administrative and bureaucratic corruption out of it!

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Dominican children play baseball in Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital.

* April 11, 2011 Huffington Post Guillén death report HERE.
* See how Guillén’s case has prompted changes HERE.
* Ian Gordon’s April 23, 2013 student lecture at the University of California, Berkeley HERE.

 – Written and Compiled by Brennan Weiss      

Past Revivals

2012: Richard Stanley brings baseball to Uganda (http://vimeo.com/28011641)
2011: Japanese tsunami hampers professional leagues & tornado destroys a Georgian community
2010: Earthquake’s impact on Haiti’s baseball community

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