During my recent trip to Haiti, I was able to witness the damage done to the country by the earthquake first hand. As we all know, Chile was recently the victim of another catastrophic earthquake.
In spite of what has happened, the children of these countries have been able to play and laugh while enjoying some of the oldest toys in history, the stick and the ball. After helping the villagers in the Haitian town of Jacmel, I decided to take a trip over to Dominican Republic, a baseball haven and Haiti’s only neighbor.
The Dominican Republic has a long history of dominance in the sport of baseball and their national leagues are some of the most competitive in the nation. The baseball talent in the Dominican Republic has been historically prevalent from Ozzie Virgil to Sammy Sosa. Major League Baseball officials frequently send scouts to sign future stars. Apparently, the people of the Dominican Republic have an innate ability to hit a ball with a stick better than people from other countries but skeptics have long wondered if the Dominican players have had an unfair edge.
The steroid use of stars like Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa has been documented and use of performance enhancing drugs is known to be widespread. However, little has been said about the baseball camps that are used to farm these athletes that are sometimes as young as 15 years old.
While in the Barahona region, I spoke to 17-year-old Major League hopeful Domingo Rodriguez whom provided insight regarding discipline, training, and family:
“I started training here under the coach about two years ago when I was fifteen. My father brought me here because we are very poor and he said I could grow up to be a big star like Sammy Sosa. “
“Here the training is very hard. The coach says we must remain fast and strong to be a star. If you gain too much weight, the coach will not give you food and your family is not allowed to visit you until you lose the weight. It is normal to see players escape the compound at night to get to the main road in hopes of finding some road kill. The most popular road kill you can find is possum or lizard. Sometimes one can get sick but after a while the body gets used to it. Actually, some have said that lizard meat is high in protein and good for fat loss. However, when we are not too fat, the coach allows us to drink milk and have rice, chicken, and vegetables, the regular food.“
“My mom and sisters feel very sad that I am away at the camp but they know that it is for a great purpose. I do what I do for them. I am ashamed to say, but my sister is a prostitute. I blame this on the government because they don’t help the poor people. Prostitution is very common here and most women do it at some time in their life because there are few jobs. Even my mother would do it sometimes when my dad did not have a job. Here we have the democracy but for what? We are just free to be poor forever like the Haitians. We don’t deserve to be like them because most Dominicans do not practice voodoo and things like that. People think these things are not important but not too many Haitians are good at baseball. I feel that if I can become a big star, I can make a lot of the money and my family will never have to work again.”
“My training camp is new and the coach is trying for us to be better than the players in the other camps. It is very hard because the competition in my country is very tough and the other camps do very hard things to the player. There was the case of the player Macario Sanchez that nearly died. His trainer said that his stance did not have the correct width. Sanchez kept repeating the mistake and after a while the trainer forced him to insert the bat into his rectum every day for twenty minutes in order to widen his stance. This happened for like two weeks. All the guys laughed at Sanchez but it was not funny because he later tried to commit suicide. Actually, the technique with the bat is a very old technique that used to be practiced many years ago but the government banned it. Some of the Dominican players in the United States even still do this because when surrounded by other good players, you must do things to be the best. The government suspended Sanchez’s trainer for two-months and many people thought this was wrong for the trainer because his intentions were not bad. Even Sanchez thought the suspension was wrong because he knew the trainer just wanted him to be a better player. It was in the newspapers and everything.”
“If we have a really good performance in a game. The coach will bring us a sexy woman for the night. This is a great reward for us because during training we do no have sex with women. The uncomfortable part is that we must all share this one woman at one time and because of this sometimes there is a loss of intimacy with the women. The coach says this is for us to think like a team at all times because teamwork is essential in this sport. I heard something that is funny about Sammy Sosa and some say it is true. They say that he would wear ankle weights on his wrists when he would give pleasure to his own self in order to increase grip strength for the bat and for more power. A lot of guys believe this and do it for more power to hit homeruns. I think it is possible that it may work.”
“Depending on the position you play, the coach can be very hard on you. My position is reliever and it can
be very stressful because the coach tries to make you have a very good concentration. This is necessary because as a reliever you cannot make mistakes. Like most of the camps, we have a hypnotist and I have to see him every night from 11pm to 5am after the rest of the players have gone to bed. It is very calming and helps the concentration because everything is very quiet and he gives me the massage over my body with hot oil as he hypnotizes me. I usually fall asleep without even realizing it. I believe this is similar to the training for the wrestlers and the boxers that receive the nude massage only I don’t believe they go to sleep.”
After speaking with Rodriguez, the renowned and currently retired trainer, Pablo Beitia commented the following: “Dominican baseball is the best baseball in the world. Part of what makes us the best is the willingness to do all that it takes to win. All this stuff about steroids is nonsense because I always believe that the baseball is 100% mental. We take the sport very seriously and that is why we hire hypnotists, we make the baseball camps and we make sure the boys have the proper training.”
By: Zeferino Jackson
Dominican baseball players eat road kill and endure sexual abuse in training camps