Baseball in the Dominican Republic has a special connection to the people. Thus an island nation of roughly 11 million people—about the size of Georgia, North Carolina or Ohio—produces more professional baseball players per capita than any other major talent supplier.
The Dominican Republic produced 2,061 of the 9,331 players (22 percent) to play affiliated baseball in 2018. That works out to 191 players per 1 million Dominican residents, compared with a rate of 15 players per 1 million people in the United States.
The single biggest supplier of baseball talent in the Dominican Republic is the capital city of Santo Domingo, which was the birthplace of 26 percent of all Dominican players.
Santo Domingo is by far the largest city in the Dominican Republic with a population of roughly 3 million, and its sheer size affords its residents with higher quality baseball equipment, training facilities and fields.
But above all, the single characteristic that makes Santo Domingo a hotbed for baseball players is greater exposure to trainers, who have moved their operations closer to the capital. With so many prominent trainers operating in the Santo Domingo area, more young players gain exposure to scouts than they do in smaller or more remote towns. That increases the chances that players will sign a pro contract.
The fact that Santo Domingo has a main airport hub also allows major league decision-makers to fly in and scout showcases, visit the organization’s Dominican complex or even crosscheck a pop-up prospect. Gaining familiarity with the prospects in and around Santo Domingo also allows teams to map out their bonus money for future international signing classes.
For their part, the trainers in Santo Domingo invest significant time and money into their players and also negotiate bonuses with major league teams, taking a cut of that bonus as payment.
The trainers house and feed the players while developing their baseball skills. Some trainers even pay for prospects to take part-time classes to further their education or to visit their families via train on off days. All these factors help a prospect in a Santo Domingo trainer’s academy stand out to major league organizations.
Above all, the trainers ensure that players attend all prominent tryouts and also get them in front of scouts at scheduled showcase events. This is naturally attractive to players who live in less populated areas, yet want equal exposure as those who are from Santo Domingo.
“The players just want a chance. They are hungry for an opportunity,” one international operations executive said.
For many, signing a pro contract is a chance to not only better their own lives but also the lives of their family and friends. “Once I found out what I could make by playing, in comparison with other jobs, well . . . that’s when I worked hardest for my family,” said one former minor leaguer who grew up in Elias Piña, a small province on the coast near Haiti.