Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Study Abroad Reflection: Dominican Republic

Yankees Academy
Once in a lifetime opportunity. That is what I will say about this study abroad trip to Tampa and the Dominican Republic to study baseball player development.  If I had to describe this trip in one word….awesome (Dr. Giddings favorite word. No one could even count the number of times she said “that’s awesome”). I just wanted to reflect on our trip with this post as this class was my last class as an undergrad. Our first stop was in Tampa where we visited the Yankees and Phillies Spring Training facilities, George Steinbrenner Field and Bright House Field. We had tours of the facilities and although they were interesting, they were not as interesting as what we learned in the Dominican Republic in my honest opinion.

When we got to the Dominican Republic, we were put into a pretty sweet hotel. It was a great place to stay and they made you feel like you were at home. The first day in the Dominican Republic, we went on a walking tour. It was a good tour to see what the Dominican Republic is like. One thing that is very different from the United States are all the people trying to sell you stuff. They will follow you and try to sell you things even if you say no. Like many other countries you can negotiate prices especially on souvenirs. I decided on the final day, I felt like experiencing this so the person who was trying to sell me turtle sculptures said they are 400 pesos each. I thought that was way too much so I said if you give me three I’ll give you 650 pesos. I was kind of surprised it was that easy, but he said deal after thinking about it for a minute or two.

I don’t even know where to start when talking about what baseball development is like in the Dominican Republic. Jose Gomez who lectured us on so many different things basically said that the system in place right now isn’t right. That is because kids are being taken out of school in order to solely focus on baseball with buscóns. It can be as young as the age of 13. Buscóns are basically player developers who will help provide money, food and other necessities for these young baseball players. You may think that is good, but if the young athletes eventually sign with a Major League Baseball team, they take 30% of the signing bonus! That is ridiculous if you ask me. I wonder how many of these buscóns actually care about the kids and how many are just there for the money. 30% of a signing bonus is a ton. You can compare it to the cut Scott Boras takes which is around 5%. The biggest difference is Scott Boras has nothing to do with the player development but the buscóns have everything to do with it.

Baseball Youth League in the DR
Being able to visit two of the baseball academies (Mets and Yankees) was really a cool experience. These facilities have been renovated over the years and they are in pretty good condition now. I personally really like how the baseball fields are set up as there is a scouting tower with three or four fields around it. You can see every field from the towers so it makes things easy on the coaches. Many of these baseball players at the academies have bad baseball IQ’s and the only reason why some of them are there because of how athletic they are. The academies are used to teach the game of baseball. The buscóns were the ones who were able to get these young baseball players in the academies in the first place.

White water rafting
I could go on and on talking about what I learned in the Dominican Republic, but I will be surprised if you even made it this far. It was a blast, the best week of my life. Not only did we learn about baseball but we went white water rafting as well as just hanging out at the beach. Everyone on this trip got to learn a little more about the life of Alan but I just want to thank Sarah and Nick who were the first ones to get me out of my shell a little on the first few days. I think everyone on this trip now realizes how riled up I get when people talk about the Sixers now. There were a few bets that went down on this trip about them. Oh and I forgot to mention how we even got to stay an extra day in the Dominican Republic because US Airways/American Airlines are horrible!  I also want to thank Jose Gomez and all of the people we got to learn from on this trip. This trip is a memory that will never be forgotten. Everyone involved on this trip was awesome so thank youuuuu! Now it’s back to reality.

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Alan Liang is a senior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Marketing, Business Administration, and Communication from West Windsor, NJ. Alan scores baseball games for Baseball Info Solutions and was on co-op with the Philadelphia 76ers in the camps department. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanLiang29. 

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