Results tagged ‘ Dominican Republic ’

Cubs making waves in the Caribbean with new Dominican facility

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The following is a feature from the July issue of Vine Line.

Though the Cubs have made strides on the field in 2013 behind some outstanding starting pitching and veteran acquisitions like Nate Schierholtz, it seems like this season has been all about facilities, buildings and permits. No matter what is happening between the white lines, the majority of the recent press has gone to the restoration of Wrigley Field and the accompanying community development adjacent to the venerated ballpark.

In fact, the chorus surrounding the Friendly Confines’ rather unfriendly debate has nearly drowned out the other significant progress the organization has been making on the facilities front—namely, the impressive new Spring Training complex in Mesa, Ariz., which will be ready for the 2014 spring slate, and the multimillion-dollar training academy in the Dominican Republic that celebrated its grand opening on May 20.

The new Dominican complex is part of an effort to improve and professionalize all aspects of the Cubs system to ensure the team has the resources to compete at every level and bring a championship-caliber team to Chicago.

“Think about where we’ll be in a couple of years,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “The organization is going in the right direction; we’ll get [Wrigley Field] fixed; we’ll have the best Spring Training facility, the best Dominican facility. We’ll have the infrastructure to be one of those consistently great teams.”

With new collective bargaining restrictions limiting how teams can build through the draft, it’s becoming more important to make inroads into the international market. And a great deal of major league talent comes out of Latin America. Though the Dominican might be nearly 2,000 miles away from Wrigley Field’s doorstep, the new facility—located in La Gina, just outside of Santo Domingo—is a major component to building the kind of lasting success the Cubs brass has repeatedly talked about.

“We’re in such a competitive industry, and the great organizations throughout baseball history have built a strong foundation for sustained success starting with their minor leagues up through the majors,” said President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “To become the organization we aspire to be and win multiple World Series titles, we have to build a foundation that can last—a solid infrastructure that puts our ballclub in a competitive position year in and year out.”

The Dominican Republic has always been a hotbed of major league talent. Of the 856 players on the 30 big league rosters, the disabled list and the restricted list at the outset of the 2013 season, 89 came from the Dominican. That makes the Caribbean nation the best-represented country outside of the U.S., which claims 615 players. In 2013, the Dominican also became the first undefeated team to claim the World Baseball Classic title, behind major league stars such as Edinson Volquez, Hanley Ramirez, Robinson Cano and Wandy Rodriguez.

The Cubs currently have eight players on their 40-man active roster who hail from the Dominican, including Welington Castillo, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Villanueva. This glut of Dominican talent is why every big league team is looking to improve its scouting and player development in the area.

“The competition for scouting talent in the Dominican Republic is high,” Ricketts said. “With the most major league players per capita here, it was no surprise all 30 baseball organizations run facilities in the country. We quickly realized that we had frontline talent here in the Dominican and needed a world-class facility to develop these players in order to achieve our goal of winning a World Series.”

The Cubs’ new Dominican complex spans 50 acres, making it the largest such academy in the country. It will be open year-round, complete with baseball fields, training facilities, and housing for minor league players during the season as well as major league players in the offseason. The goal is to serve athletes from across Central and South America, including Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Aruba, Curaçao and Mexico, in addition to the Dominican Republic.

The new complex, which has a comfortable on-site dormitory that can house up to 80 players and eight staff members, strives to give young players every resource to succeed. It features three fields, including one with artificial turf, four covered batting cages, eight bullpens, a weight room, a cafeteria and kitchen, two locker rooms, two meeting rooms, a large classroom that can be converted into four smaller classrooms, a theater and a video room.

“If you’re going to search for the best of the best, you want to give them everything they need and create the right kind of atmosphere and environment,” Epstein said. “We know our players and staff are putting in an enormous amount of work, and providing quality facilities is just as important as teaching the fundamentals of baseball.”

But the academy is about more than just churning out quality baseball players; it’s also about nurturing quality people. The Cubs are putting an emphasis on education, health and nutrition throughout their organization. To that end, the facility will also serve as an educational center equipped with classrooms and staff to teach English and Spanish, and players will be able to earn their GED high school equivalency.

The opening ceremony for the new Dominican facility drew a pedigreed crowd, including the Ricketts family; President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and other members of the Cubs front office; Dominican President Danilo Medina; Hato Viejo Mayor Reynoso Hichez Telleria; and former Cubs players and Dominican natives Moises Alou, Amaury Telemaco, George Bell and Henry Rodriguez.

“I think the fans really do understand that what we’re trying to do is build an organization that has a strong foundation and is going to be consistently successful at some point,” Ricketts said. “Hopefully soon, but the point is not to take shortcuts, but to do things the right way.”

—Gary Cohen

Prospectus Preview: 2012 International, Jorge Soler


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Other Prospectus Previews: 

• Down the Pipeline / Jeimer Candelario

Close to the Majors / Nick Struck

2012 Trades/Claims / Barret Loux

Jorge Soler has the unique ability to leave baseball people gushing and speechless at the same time—like how McLeod wrapped up a report on the Cuban with, “Yeah, he’s awesome.” Soler “drips with tools,” similar to first-rounders Albert Almora and Javier Baez. There are several potential pitfalls, but Soler’s assimilation on and off the field has been promising so far.

Both Soler and Gerardo Concepcion were signed in the flurry of get-’em-while-you-can moves before international spending caps hit on July 2. Frandy De La Rosa and Juan Carlos Paniagua were the team’s two big gets afterward, inked for roughly three quarters of the Cubs’ $2.9 million pool. But most international signings are of toolsy 16- and 17-year-olds who won’t head stateside for years—if ever.

In the background, the Cubs are investing heavily in their Latin American infrastructure. Work continues on a new Dominican facility, which will provide more fields, workout space and classrooms. They’ve also returned to Venezuela, in lieu of a second Dominican squad. Both moves should signal to prospects how seriously the Cubs take player development.

Soler is just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus, which hits newsstands in February, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond.

Ht./Wt.: 6-3/205
B/T: R/R
Born: 2/25/92 in Havana, Cuba
Acquired: 2012 NDFA
Tools: Power, Arm, Speed
2012 STATS (R): .241/.328/.389 (14 G); (LoA): .338/.398/.513 (20)

Baseball people don’t often throw around 80s—as in “elite” on the 20-80 scouting scale—so it shouldn’t be taken lightly when McLeod slaps that grade on Soler’s raw power. Think Giancarlo Stanton in the tape-measure home run department. Soler pairs that with an impressive approach at the plate, which allowed him to excel at low Class-A Peoria. Soler profiles perfectly for right field, where he runs well and has a plus arm. It’s still early, so Cubs brass will hold their breath and hope the skills he’s shown hold up as he faces tougher pitching. Soler will be just 21 this season, but the Cubs aren’t going to be conservative with him—he’ll move as he proves he’s ready.

*Slash line includes AVG/OBP/SLG

Other players featured in this section: Infielder Frandy De La Rosa, outfielder Yasiel Balaguert, and pitchers Juan Carlos Paniagua and Gerardo Concepcion

Sean Ahmed

Connecting over the Cubs-Cards rivalry

Carlos Marmol at an on-field presentation for Dominican-born players.

Carlos Marmol was one of the Cubs’ six Dominican players to be honored by the Governor of Illinois and Consul General of the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Stephen Green)

A few things transcend the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, but on Tuesday, the state of Illinois and the Dominican Republic did just that, honoring players from the Dominican Republic in a pre-game ceremony.

Under the Ricketts family, the Cubs are doing more than ever in the Caribbean island nation. In addition to work being done on a new facility to develop and educate players, Chicago Cubs Charities also has gotten involved—part of ownership’s commitment to do good wherever the Cubs touch.

Press release below:

The Chicago Cubs, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Consul General of the Dominican Republic Gisselle Castillo-Veremis will honor players from the Dominican Republic in a pre-game ceremony at Wrigley Field on May 10.

Prior to the Tuesday evening game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs and the governor, along with the Consulate of the Dominican Republic in Chicago, will salute Cubs Starlin Castro, Carlos Marmol, Marcos Mateo, Carlos Peña, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. Consul General Giselle Castillo-Veremis will present these six, along with Cardinals Miguel Batista and Albert Pujols, with a special recognition award on behalf of the President of the Dominican Republic.

“The Cubs are grateful for the contribution of Dominican-born players to our 2011 team,” said Oneri Fleita, Cubs vice president of player personnel. “We have watched many of these players grow up and are proud to see them doing so well at the Major League level.”