DRSEA INFORMER: The Man With The Plan, Sandy Alderson
- Updated: September 10, 2010
Contrary to what some might believe, Sandy Alderson, Major League Baseball´s emissary to the Dominican Republic, does not have horns sprouting from his head. I met recently with the reform czar and came away with the impression that – while Alderson still faces an uphill battle – the right man is on the job.
The actual meeting, while in discussion for a few months, popped up on a day´s notice. I found myself anxious as the appointment neared, in part because I simply did not know exactly what to expect. I knew of Alderson by reputation; he is baseball´s fixer, sent into situations to repair them, and he has done a masterful job over the years. But he has been criticized from many corners in the Dominican Republic for what has been termed a gunslinger´s approach to reform; very aggressive and decisive, and without including others, including Dominicans, in the campaign to curb age and identity fraud, steroids use among prospects, and other issues.
I have written about the situation several times in the INFORMER and was even cautioned by one baseball official to tread lightly. It wasn´t a warning, just a reminder that baseball is very conservative and traditional and some in the industry do not like to see feathers ruffled. I was wondering if Alderson was among them.
He began the conversation by defending reform in Dominican baseball. After all, teams spend $100 million a year on the development of talent here, and more around the world to promote the sport. But that makes baseball an “international citizen,” Alderson said, with responsibilities that go beyond promoting its interests. “We have a responsibility to do more for the people we work with, more for the Dominican community,” he said.
Alderson said that begins with the prospects currently in the 29 academies operated by Major League Baseball teams. And here is where he shocked me, pleasantly so. Alderson said that there is evidence that a better educated player has a better chance of succeeding in his goal of playing professional baseball, so it is in the best interest of baseball to provide some kind of education, either academic or vocational. He added that he would like to see every team provide a couple hours of instruction outside of baseball each day, but conceded that teams could not be forced to do so, outside a mandate from the commissioner.
He said his second point of concern is those prospects who wash out of the academies, which is the case with 98 percent. Something has to be done to help them with the transition from baseball, Alderson said, again either with some sort of academic or vocational training. American prospects routinely have clauses in their contracts that provide that teams pay for that education, something that might be explored in the Dominican Republic, Alderson said.
And last, but not least, Alderson said he is also concerned for potential prospects, those 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds who dream of a future in baseball, often dropping out to school to chase the rainbow. Once again, he said, education can and should play a key role, and here is where the Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy could be instrumental. When the academy is up and running, he said, producing graduates who go on to college, and some of them also have successful careers in baseball, the power of education AND baseball will be evident, and the DRSEA will be viewed as a powerful alternative to the traditional development route, hopefully forcing others inside and outside of baseball to take note, and perhaps ensuring that Alderson´s first two concerns are addressed.
That perception by Alderson of the role the DRSEA can play – a role we have always envisioned – was more than I could have ever anticipated, and reinforced my belief that he and I have more in common than most people think.
He reminded me that baseball has responded before when there were issues in Dominican baseball. In 2000, when there was evidence of miserable conditions at baseball academies here, Alderson said he worked to have Major League Baseball open an office in Santo Domingo, in part to address those conditions. I reminded him that I lead the group that examined the academies and issued the report on those conditions.
Alderson admits that the road to reform is full of potholes and he is, and will be, the target of criticism. He added that he expects to expand the dialogue on reform in the coming months, believing that other people, including those in education and government, deserve to be heard.
Only time will tell if Alderson´s reform goals are met, and how much opposition they will face, but I left our meeting with a clearer understanding of the man who has a tremendous responsibility. And I think he has a clearer understanding of what I am trying to accomplish. I am hoping there is a lot of room for us to work together.