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  1. #1
    R-I-P, Mr. Nelson Mandela Jersey Yankee's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    North Jersey somewhere

    Mets looking to Dominican f/future players

    I guess the international market must've been enticing, especially after they'd originally tried obtaining that Japanese 3Bman, then seeing how they can be brought over as FA w/o giving up useful talent. I'm interested in how well they develop talent in this baseball-rich island nation.

    Mets Look to Build Dominican Roots

    SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, Dominican Republic, Jan. 22 — The air-conditioned bus carrying the Mets' brain trust rumbled down the dusty street on the edge of town, bumping through potholes and scraping overhanging trees. It passed wooden shacks and slightly more sturdy concrete homes before stopping in front of a new structure.

    The Mets' owner, team executives and manager flew into the Dominican Republic today with several objectives to complete in 24 hours: revisit and acquire land to develop a baseball academy; study the developments other teams have established here; and fulfill a promise.

    That last objective was the most important one for Fred Wilpon, the owner, and the Mets spent most of today carrying through on a promise Wilpon made last summer. By Wilpon's guess, Armando Benitez thought Wilpon was joking when he promised to visit the baseball stadium Benitez built with his own money so teenagers from a town known as the cradle of baseball could have a place to play without dodging motorcycles.

    Benitez said he believed Wilpon would pay a visit. "It means a lot to me and this small town I grew up in, and it gives a boost to my kids to see the Mets here," Benitez said. "They're growing up just like I did."

    The timing of the Mets' visit is equally important, and not only because Benitez will be a free agent after the season. Benitez lost his biggest ally in the organization when Manager Bobby Valentine was fired, and Benitez turned serious when he was asked to recall his feelings for a man he considered more than his manager.

    "I never wanted what happened to have happened," Benitez said. "But I understand it's a job. He's a great person and he did many things for me. Apart from the job and his work, I'll miss him because he's my friend. Whenever I needed advice, he was there."

    Valentine and Omar Minaya, then the Mets' assistant general manager and now the Expos' general manager, visited Benitez here last off-season. Now, Wilpon was leading 13 team executives and 2 baseball security personnel members into the heart of baseball country here, hoping to show Benitez and others that the Mets want to put roots in the Dominican Republic.

    Wilpon hopes to see pitcher Pedro Astacio, outfielder Timo Perez and the shortstop prospect José Reyes on Thursday. When Valentine's absence was mentioned to Wilpon, he referred to the new manager, Art Howe, and said Benitez "sees Art is also a great guy."

    Benitez's father, Jacobo, is about half his son's size and the caretaker of the ranch. "He told me he wants to finish his career with the Mets," Jacobo said to Wilpon.

    The Mets hope to leave here with property for their own academy, where they can train and house the players they sign, instead of having them commute between public facilities as they have for years. Eddy Toledo, the Mets' director of Dominican operations, and Minaya kept the Mets competitive on scouting here, but they do not have the resources of other teams.

    Benitez paid $150,000 to build the stadium, which opened a year ago this month, and said he paid more annually to maintain it. He employs four coaches and a director.

    "I'm the pitching coach," Benitez said, his face beaming from the attention.

    The boys, ages 17 to 20, have Benitez written across the front of the bright-blue jerseys, uniforms Benitez acquired with the help of the Mets' equipment manager, Charlie Samuels.

    When one of the pitchers plunked three batters in a wild inning, Benitez called him over and told him to maintain his confidence and throw his pitches, even if it meant waving off the catcher's signal.

    Two of his players have already signed with professional teams, one with the Mets, and Benitez acts like a father to them. He said this was a scout's dream, because you could watch a bumper crop of prospects in one place.

    Barrio Azul, the neighborhood, lies in the shadow of a sugar cane refinery. The left-field fence is dominated by a No. 49, Benitez's uniform number, and a painted replica of Benitez's pinstriped jersey from the Mets.

    Soon after the Mets' party arrived and spent nearly three hours chatting with Benitez, speaking with some of the 35 boys who train at the camp and watching a game, the fence surrounding the stadium was filled with schoolboys, their baby-blue shirts covered by their backpack straps.

    "I think it's got to have an impact on him and his countrymen to see that we think that much of him," Howe said.

    The day ended with a drive to Benitez's 4,000-acre ranch in Hato Mayor, best reached by stopping every 20 minutes and asking for directions. Another mile over a dirt track not meant for rental cars brings one to Benitez's complex. The Mets had meetings scheduled at their hotel here tonight, but Wilpon had time for one more gesture. He stepped into a cock-fighting ring and challenged Benitez. "C'mon, Armando," he said, "for all the cattle and 4,000 acres." Benitez smiled and declined.

  2. #2
    NYYF Legend

    Michaels07's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Aberdeen NJ

    The Mets have signed quite a few Dominicans

    Baseball in general like to pay as little as possible and these kids are cheap.

  3. #3
    R-I-P, Mr. Nelson Mandela Jersey Yankee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    North Jersey somewhere

    Re: The Mets have signed quite a few Dominicans

    Originally posted by Michaels07
    Baseball in general like to pay as little as possible and these kids are cheap.
    They need to lower payroll anyway. They can't do much worse than having no 3Bman after trading away homegrown Fonzie, then having the Japanese player drop them after his deal was leaked.

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