By Alexandra Lucia-Miller
Major League Baseball is launching a training program in Puerto Rico targeted toward players who are unable to afford specialized baseball academies. The program seeks to spur player development, Fox News Latino reported.
Officials will hold tryouts this month in the San Juan. Fifty players, ages 14 to18, will be selected to participate in an intensive after-school program, said MLB Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations Kim Ng.
The pilot program consists of three practices a week for up to three hours a day, with a focus on mechanics, fundamentals and game strategy, Ng said.
MLB plans to expand the program into other areas of the island in order to increase the roster of potential players. There were only 13 Puerto Rican players on opening day last year.
Sports and Recreation Secretary Ramon Orta said that the overall goal of the program should be to produce more players and offer better training. The new program will not run in competition with the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, and those already attending baseball academies will not be allowed to participate.
The Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School currently receives $400,000 a year from MLB, roughly the same amount that will be put into the pilot program, Orta said.
“Once the after-school program is established, the MLB will create tournaments and other events featuring those players and invite scouts,” Joel Araujo said. Araujo will act as the MLB’s manager for international baseball operates and oversee the program.
Ng appeared optimistic about the program and what it could do for baseball in Puerto Rico. “Some great things have happened for Puerto Rico baseball in the last nine months. There is much to be proud of, but there is much yet to do.”
(Photo by 2013 World Baseball Classic, Inc.)