February 28, 2002

Marc It Down: Dominican baseball players aged dramtically this winter

Looking for the fountain of youth? Don't go to the Dominican Republic. ... Deivi Cruz, shortstop, of the San Diego Padres turned 29 last November. When the Padres season ended last October, he was 25. Was mid-twenties, full of potential, prime of life…now he’s pushing thirty and may have his best playing days behind him. Shortstop Neifi Perez of the Colorado Rockies is now 28-years-old. He was 26 at the end of last season. Ramon Ortiz enters spring training a 29-year-old pitcher for the Anaheim Angels. When the Angels bid him a good offseason, he was 26. I know some winters seem long, but jeez, three years? What do these three players have in common? They are all from the Dominican Republic. There must be something in the water in the D.R. that creates good baseball players, but that water is definitely not coming from the fountain of youth. In the Dominican Republic, young boys with good baseball skills are hounded by scouts. If an 11- or 12-year-old boy has a live arm and makes a curveball dance like no one else his age, he has a chance to develop and make a great future for himself and his family in the big leagues of the United States. If another boy with similar skills is 13- or 14-years-old, he is not as sought after as the younger boy. Less time to develop, less potential, it’s assumed. Birth certificates are not very official in the D.R., evidently. The players who aged dramatically this winter have two people to thank for being recognized for being the older players they really are: Danny Almonte and Osama bin Laden. Almonte was the butt of more jokes than anyone else in the history of New York after it was discovered last year that he was a young man (of 14 years) among boys (no more than age 12) in the Little League World Series. He was the star pitcher for a team from the Bronx that made it to the championship game, only to have it’s earlier victories voided because of Almonte’s fraud. Many of the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11th, 2001, were in the country on expired work visas based on bogus information. They caught us sleeping. Due to the revised and stricter work visa regulations to enter the United States now, no less than 15 players in Major League Baseball have had their age changed by the commissioner’s office. They went away for the offseason and returned older players. Maybe they’ve also gained years of experience and guile that will help them on the field, but their older age will not help them negotiate their next contracts. But look at it this way: think of all the birthday punches these guys have dodged. ... Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has a good article on this issue.

posted by msacheson to commentary at 11:50 AM - 0 comments

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.