First came the Astros' selection of Carlos Correa as the No. 1 overall draft choice last year, and then came Puerto Rico's impressive showing in the World Baseball Classic. Now, reports MLB.com, Major League Baseball will soon collaborate on an after-school training program in Puerto Rico that focuses on high-school-age athletes.
The nine-month program for players in grades 9 to 11 will feature three hours of instruction, three days a week, starting May 6 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. The program will eventually expand to four regions on the island, with 35-50 players expected to participate at each region.
Tryouts are scheduled for April 22-24.
"In Puerto Rico, there are academies like the Carlos Beltran Academy and the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, but overall, there is not a high school baseball program," Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American game development for MLB, told MLB.com. "There are some players that cannot afford the academies, or have the opportunity, and we want to help that group with their development by getting them quality instruction in the hopes that they will grow."
Consider this a good and an important thing -- an investment. Development of talent at the lower levels certainly yields a better game of baseball at the highest level. As well, Puerto Rico -- the home of luminaries and near-luminaries like Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Pudge Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Roberto Alomar and Carlos Delgado, among many others -- was once a rich and deeply proud source of great ballplayers.
One going theory is that Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory, lost its baseball luster once MLB made its amateur players subject to the draft starting in 1990 (New York Times). Regardless of the underlying reasons, the decline of Puerto Rican baseball is a cultural defeat for the game. Consider this one of a number of indicators that a resurgence is underway.