The Orioles’ dive into acquiring and developing international talent went even deeper Tuesday.
The organization announced plans to build a new complex in the Dominican Republic, a 22.5-acre training academy in Guerra that will host the club’s player development operations in the Dominican and feature three full fields, dormitories, educational facilities, and other on- and off-field amenities for players. Construction will take 12 to 16 months once that process begins in the coming months, the team said.
The announcement represents the latest step forward for the Orioles in the game’s international spectrum since Mike Elias became the club’s executive vice president and general manager in November 2018. Elias said on a video conference call that the complex has been in the works since shortly after he was hired and required “a significant, multimillion dollar investment” from the team’s partnership group.
“We’ve been consistent about since I got here and just the last couple of years in this new era that we are going to be focused and disciplined on laying down a sustainable foundation for a successful franchise in Baltimore, and we’re going to roll up our sleeves and maybe go through some lumps here the next few years as we build up, but we’ll be glad that we did this work when we get to that point,” Elias said. “It needed to be done. We’re transitioning from a period of time where we were maximizing every ability at the major league level, and now we need to reset for the next great run here, and having facilities like this, having a scouting and player development apparatus that is first-rate is all mandatory toward running a first-rate franchise.”
In a statement, Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos said the investment represented “yet another demonstration of our confident long view of the value of MLB, Orioles, and Camden Yards brand platforms.”
“This partnership group continues to execute the long-term plan announced in the fall of 2018 to invest and reinvest in baseball facilities, technology, front office research and expertise, and player talent,” Angelos said. “As we continue to invest and give back across Maryland and Florida, we see this as another opportunity to make a difference internationally in the Dominican community as we strengthen the future of Orioles baseball.”
Scouting efforts in Latin America typically require years of building relationships in the region, but under senior director of international scouting Koby Perez, the Orioles have quickly been productive. In January, Baltimore announced its first million-dollar bonuses for two Latin American amateurs, Dominican catcher Samuel Basallo and Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernández.
The new facility will prompt more such talent to enter the organization, Perez said.
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“When you’re negotiating with these players and their parents and their agents, they want to know where their son or where their player is going to be,” he said. “To be able to promote our complex and our player development system as one of the best is essential for us.”
The academy will be able to host more than 100 players, coaches and staff, while Perez said the club’s current complex in Boca Chica can hold only 60 to 70. Brison SRL’s Brian Mejia, the landowner and developer, is leading the project, while José Mella, a well-regarded Dominican academy architect, represented the Orioles throughout the process.
The site will feature three classrooms, a computer lab and a dining room among elements that are focused on preparing players for more than being professional baseball players.
“Obviously, this is a long time coming and a major milestone in this organization’s commitment to a full and aggressive and correct approach to acquiring and developing international talent,” Elias said. “It’s a big part of our strategy going forward. It’s a big part of being successful in Major League Baseball today. We want to be at the forefront of doing that, and I think this facility will enable that and put our international players in the best position to not only succeed on the field but receive the education, the language education, the cultural education that is necessary for success in life, even outside of baseball.”
The facility also will be about 20 minutes from Las Américas International Airport, the club noted, and also be near several other teams’ academies, which should be beneficial for scheduling games. Elias pointed out repeatedly that the academy will neighbor that of the Cleveland Indians, the organization they hired Perez from and one with an international pipeline Baltimore would like to mirror. He also credited two of Perez’s other former employers with the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals — whom Elias also worked for before joining the Houston Astros’ front office — as well as the Colorado Rockies for their assistance.
Many other organizations have already developed new complexes in the Dominican Republic, where the Dominican Summer League serves as many Latin prospects’ first taste of professional baseball. As the Orioles enter the fray, they’re confident they’ll be offering their current players and potential ones a top-tier experience.
“We’re excited to be joining with this run of new complexes,” Elias said. “I think it’s going to be one of the best.”