Major League Baseball and the Players' Association announced the formation of the Puerto Rico Summer League on Thursday, a league designed to help spark baseball interest and development on the island. Here is more info from the press release:
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced the creation of a brand new Puerto Rico Summer League, which began its inaugural season June 3.
Players in the league were selected through tryouts conducted throughout the island, and the league is a joint initiative designed to support youth development in Puerto Rico. The league consists of two four-team divisions and gives players between the ages of 14-17 more chances to refine their game.
The leagues are housed in the cities of Guaynabo and Mayaguez. Each of the four teams will hold practices at the local facility and will play every Tuesday and Thursday. Twenty-one coaches have been selected, and 16 of them have worked in the MLB Development Program, an after-school training program in Puerto Rico for high school athletes that launched in May.
"For decades, the island of Puerto Rico has left an enduring imprint on the diversity of our game," said MLB COO Rob Manfred in a statement. "Major League Baseball remains dedicated to providing ample opportunities for the youth of Puerto Rico to participate in the game year round. In the spirit of our other local programs, such as the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and the Passed Over Showcase, the Puerto Rico Summer League will serve as an immense resource for those players who wish to remain on the field during the summer months, while also presenting the Major League clubs with an additional outlet for scouting."
"Increasing and advancing playing opportunities for young players is a priority of active Major Leaguers in general, and Puerto Rican players in particular, especially opportunities that provide young players with expert coaching and training," added MLBPA chief Tony Clark in a statement. "Puerto Rico has produced some of the greatest players to have played our great game, and the creation of the new summer league honors previous generations of Puerto Rican Major Leaguers and provides a new path for future generations to follow."
Players from Puerto Rico became subject to the draft in 1990 and the talent pool has since dried up. There wasn't a proper infrastructure to develop kids into baseball players and teams didn't put in much effort either. Not like they have in the Dominican Republic, where players are free to sign with any team. Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa have been drafted highly out of Puerto Rico, but the amount of talent coming out of the country is disproportionate to other warm weather places like California and Florida.
It took entirely too long, but kudos to MLB and the union for finally putting together a league to help develop young kids in Puerto Rico into baseball players. Hopefully this is just the start and there are more programs on the way.