Dominican Republic academy re-opens with upgrades

White Sox add second building, more classrooms

CHICAGO -- The White Sox re-opened their Dominican Republic academy this past Tuesday with great excitement concerning the upgrades made to the complex in Boca Chica.

Buddy Bell, the organization's assistant general manager, spoke of a second building being added to go along with the two baseball fields already in place, along with additional classrooms, lounges and computers. It now becomes somewhat of a selling point as the White Sox continue to establish themselves in the international market, but all of the changes are directed toward helping the kids.

"We just made some changes to kind of give it a new feel," Bell said. "First of all, the kids stay there every day. They eat there, they sleep there. Parents come in, and they see where their kid is staying and what kind of food they eat and things like that. It has just become more important.

"A lot of these kids don't ever get to get over here, so it's really important to us to give them an education regardless if they get over here or not. A lot of these kids just don't have the resources."

Ever Magallanes takes over as the supervisor of the academy, with Manuel Santana serving as the complex operations coordinator, Guillermo Reyes as the field coordinator and Julio Valdez as the manager of the Dominican Summer League team. Magallanes has viewed the changes in person and applauds the White Sox making things better for the players to truly focus on their talents once they get into baseball action.

"They can sleep better, and all the tension is on the field," Magallanes said. "Not that it was bad in the past. But we just want to upgrade a little bit more.

"I've been down there a lot, so I've seen the change and what it was before and now. We still have a ways to go, but it's awesome, and I'm happy for the kids. I'm happy that they are experiencing it and get to have a place, a complex that it's nice to go to. It's nice to go to work."

English classes become the most important thing for these players, and that education has always been solidly provided by the White Sox in Bell's estimation. But the changes also have the White Sox hiring a sport psychologist for the Academy, as well as a focus placed on nutrition and doing more work on computers.

"An unfortunate thing, and I hate this, is that some of these kids are judged that they aren't smart," Bell said of players who stop going to school when they focus on baseball. "But they've never been given an opportunity. How would you know if a guy is smart or not when they don't have the proper education? We are not going to do it just because everybody else is doing it. We feel it's the right thing.

"But it's a big part of our organization now. It needs to be. We need that to supplement our domestic Draft. We can't be more happy with what we've done here in the last three or four months."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.