At the end of the 2022 season, there were 171 Dominican players in Major League Baseball – making up nearly 18 percent of major league rosters, second only to the percentage of American-born players.
Baseball is the national passion in the Dominican Republic. From a very young age, Dominican children pick up a ball and a bat. Their baseball dreams are fueled by the success of those that have gone before them, and you can see baseball everywhere on the island. The relentless desire to achieve major league glory fuels the endless games of catch and the pickup games that are everywhere. The devotion of these kids to reach that dream fuels constant practice which results in players with skill sets beyond their years.
As early as the 1950s, MLB executives and scouts realized there was an opportunity to recruit boys from the DR at little cost and high reward. Since wages are generally very low, any amount of money in a signing bonus and promised salary was a windfall.
Unfortunately, with this discovery also came problems. Boys were a commodity for the business of baseball, and it was common for them to go to training camps as young as the age of 10 or 11 with the promise of big signing bonuses. Many of these facilities had deplorable conditions. The boys would spend all their time playing baseball, neglecting their studies and their health, playing through injuries or receiving sub-par medical attention. Living conditions had boys in shacks with no windows or running water. It quickly became a crisis.
In addition to long-term personal injury, this led to significant problems when the boys failed to sign a contract with a Major League Team. They would leave the camp unhealthy and uneducated and try to assimilate back into their community with a sense of shame because they were unable to fulfill their perceived duty to their family by earning a contract and associated signing bonus. Rather than taking the boys and their families out of poverty, this practice instead perpetuated the poverty and often made it worse.
Today, thankfully, things are beginning to improve. MLB has recognized the problems and has instituted regulations for their teams’ Dominican academies, for which each MLB team has one. This has improved the living and training situations for players once they sign a contract with MLB and move into the training leagues. Boys are no longer eligible to sign a contract with MLB until they are 16½ years old and recruiters are scrutinized for practices that take advantage of players by taking large portions of bonus checks as payment for services.
Joshua 1:Nine hopes to go one step further. Less than 1% of all Dominican boys who want to play baseball will ever sign with MLB and less than 1% of those boys will ever make it to America to have a chance to play at the minor league level. The percentage that moves from the minors to the majors is even smaller still. It is a very small chance, but a chance we want to encourage and advance if the boys have the dream and adequate skill. Beyond baseball, however, we want to do more.
Primarily, we want to build character and a foundation of morality. As believers in Christ, we want to share this belief with boys who are not yet introduced to Him; and for those who know Christ, we want to give them tools to deepen the relationship. We want to lead them into a life that has morals and values that glorify and exemplify Christ. We want to strengthen the power of family and help our team grow into God-glorifying, family- and community-leading men by surrounding them with mentors who are doing that in their own lives and can pour into them as Godly examples. In turn, we want to give our players the tools to mentor to those outside the program as well as those who are younger in the program. Our prayer is for this to create a shift in culture and lead to generations of men who support their families, understand the value of education, and ultimately change their communities for the better.
In addition to introducing or deepening the boys’ relationship with Jesus Christ, we support the education process in the DR by providing tutoring and mentoring, and holding our players to high standards around school attendance and success. We believe each of our players should be familiar, if not literate, in Spanish as well as in English. This will be important when playing in MLB or, if not, in finding success in business at home.
We want to provide tools for healthy living. Education around clean water is important in the Dominican Republic. Tap water is not potable and sometimes not available at all. Hygiene and information about how to eliminate waterborne illnesses is crucial in our community. In 2021, Joshua 1:Nine partnered with Rotary International to build a water purification facility in Fondo Negro. This facility provides potable water to the community and also serves as a cottage industry for the community, providing jobs as well as water to be sold to surrounding communities.
We need your help to make this happen! Please click here to learn the ways you can give to and be involved with the program. We look forward to maybe seeing you someday on the ball field under the Caribbean sun!