Mills: MLB searches for talent, but not in the right places

From SABR member Dorothy Seymour Mills at on May 19, 2014:

Major League Baseball works to develop replacement talent needed to keep the professional game going, basing its training centers in so-called academies built at places around the world where the administrators of the men’s game believe that talent can be nurtured. Those places include countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, and even Italy (the location of MLB’s International European Academy).

How has this worked out for MLB? Is the money well spent? Should MLB be proud of its international outreach?

Let’s take Australia, where each year since 2001, seventy or eighty young men from across Australasia receive scholarships to an elaborate academy at a Radisson Hotel resort that has been described as a “world-class baseball facility.” So far, only two players trained there have made the majors.

How about Venezuela? About 200 Venezuelans have made the majors over the last decade, with many of those having been trained by the academies. But because of rising crime and political tension, MLB has closed most of its twenty-one Venezuelan baseball academies, with only five MLB teams still retaining bases there. Accusations of corruption and youth exploitation have sullied the reputations of these training facilities. In addition, it’s dangerous to be a Venezuelan ballplayer visiting family back home, because Venezuelans who receive paychecks from MLB have been robbed, beaten, and kidnapped, even shot, and their families have been abducted, according to a Sports Illustrated story in March of 2013.

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Originally published: May 22, 2014. Last Updated: May 22, 2014.