"It's a great time for Puerto Rican baseball. There is momentum," said Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American game development for Major League Baseball. "The Correa pick was huge, and the entire Draft showed how much talent is there. The Puerto Rican Baseball Academy has done a tremendous job, and there are a lot of good players all over Puerto Rico."
The showcase in Puerto Rico, which will be patterned after the prospect showcases held by Major League Baseball in the Dominican Republic, is designed to give unsigned and undrafted players additional exposure to international and domestic scouts from Major League clubs.
Following an introductory address by former Major League player Carlos Baerga and an orientation, the prospects were scheduled to participate in a series of workouts on the first day and two games on the final day of the showcase.
"Puerto Rico is a very unique market, because it's on the fence between international and the domestic markets, and there's a theory that it gets lost in the shuffle," Araujo said. "We want to emphasize its value and remind people there is still talent there. We want to get the message out, and we think a showcase of this nature can help us do that."
Puerto Rico's baseball history runs deep.
In 1972, Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame the next year. In 1999, Orlando Cepeda joined Clemente in Cooperstown.
In the 1997 All-Star Game, a player from Puerto Rico either scored or drove in every run. Sandy Alomar Jr., playing for Cleveland and one of eight Puerto Ricans in the game, was named the Midsummer Classic's Most Valuable Player, and Kansas City's Jose Rosado was the winning pitcher.
In 2001, Major League Baseball made Opening Day history at Hiram Bithorn Stadium with a game between the Rangers and the Blue Jays. In '03 and '04, the Montreal Expos played 22 home games each year at the stadium, before the club moved to Washington to become the Nationals. Games for the World Baseball Classic were held in San Juan for the first time in 2006.
During its heyday, the Puerto Rican Winter League was the offseason playground of Hall of Famers such as Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
However, the number of Puerto Ricans in the Major Leagues has steadily declined since the commonwealth became subject to the First-Year Player Draft in 1989, fueling the debate regarding its inclusion in the Draft.
This year, there were 11 players from Puerto Rico on Opening Day rosters, 28 fewer than in 2002, but there is some optimism that the number will increase in the future, partly because of this year's Draft.
After Correa's selection in the first round, right-handed pitcher Jose Berrios from Papa Juan XXIII High School was selected by the Twins with the club's first selection in the Compensation Round, the 32nd overall pick. Infielder Jesmuel Valentin, Correa's teammate at Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, was selected with the 51st overall pick by the Dodgers.
Right-handed pitcher Edwin Diaz was selected in the third round with the 98th overall pick by the Mariners out of Caguas Military Academy.
Overall, the Puerto Rican players selected in the Draft represented 19 cities and 13 different schools on the island.
"We believe in the talent and we are seeing the start of resurgence in Puerto Rico," Araujo said. "We are just trying to shed some light on a market that may have been neglected in the last couple of years."