The Mariners Wednesday announced a major investment in international player development with the construction of a Latin American Academy in the Dominican Republic. When the facility is completed near the end of 2013, it will include all the facilities and equipment needed to accommodate two full teams as well as managers, coaches and instructional staff.
For the past 10 years, the Mariners have rented a facility in the Dominican Republic near where the new academy is being built.
The academy will be located near the city of Boca Chica, which is about 30 miles east of the capital city of Santo Domingo. It will be a residential facility where the prospects will live, workout, go to school, and develop their baseball skills.
“This is an investment in the Mariners future,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “Having state of the art facilities in the Dominican Republic will help not only with the training of our top Dominican prospects, but with development and recruitment of talent from across Latin America.”
The facilities, which will cover about 24 acres, will include two full-sized fields with room to build a third field if needed, a practice infield, an agility field, lighted, covered batting cages, bullpen facilities with six pitcher’s mounds, dormitory space for up to 80 players, coaches and trainers, a dining hall, classrooms for English language and Spanish literacy instruction, a computer lab and access to recreational activities on site.
“In the U.S., every prospect has his own training program,” said Tim Kissner, Mariners Director of International Operations. “Down here (Dominican Republic), they don’t have that. At the academy, they’ll get the calories their bodies need to develop, they’ll have access to educational programs, including competency and literacy in their own language, and the training and coaching to develop and improve their baseball skills. When you combine all of this in a state of the art facility, that’s when you will really see these kids take off and develop.”
While all 30 major league teams have Instructional and Winter League teams in the Dominican, the Mariners will be one of only a handful that own their own complex.
Kissner has spent the last 10 days in the Dominican Republic meeting with academy staff and watching young prospects work out and play in games. Kissner will spend another week in Venezuela, where the Mariners are developing young talent at a rented facility. Four MLB teams, including the Mariners, have teams in Venezuela.
On Opening Day 2012, the Dominican Republic was the country of origin of the most non-U.S. born players on major league rosters. Venezuela was second.