I got my first close-up experience with a buscone yesterday. Buscones are the men who begin developing talent at a very young age (I saw 9 and 10 year olds on one field at mid-day) with the goal of signing them by 16 to large professional contracts. Our group visited microfinance banks, health clinics and schools in the San Pedro de Macoris area, the home of Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano and many other Dominican players. San Pedro, home thtoe Eastern Stars ball club of the Dominican League, is known as the short stop capital of the world because of the many young, athletic short stops produced by this bustling city by the Caribbean.
I was fortunate to be taveling with former NY Mets General Manager Omar Minaya and David Valle, the former MLB catcher and current MLB Network commentator. Valle founded Esperanza International, the real focus of our visit.
We stopped to see a vocational training center which happened to be located next to the baseball field where years ago Minaya, then with the Texas Rangers, signed a young scrappy player named Sammy Sosa.
We skipped the training center and ducked into a faded old stadium that opened up to a ballfield full of players of every age. Down the leftfield line were 9 and 10 year olds hitting soft toss and on the field were kids ranging in age from 15-19. A few buscones immediately realized this was their lucky day when they saw Minaya. One buscone dressed in a Texas shirt immediately pointed out two of his hitters, and in between innings started firing grounders to a short-stop who I swear could play successfully right now at the professional level. Watch the video I took to see how he fields the grounder and how quickly and expertly he moves his feet before firing to first.
The buscone's celebrated hitters didn't impress, but the other team put up a guy (I wish I had his name) who drilled a homer to deep left-centerfield off a 19-year-old kid throwing gas. It was a reminder that while we sit in the offseason playing our video games there are hungry kids playing every waking hour on a field like this.
After more than 12 hours of visiting Esperanza offices, clinics and schools we were tired. But like every night here, there is an amazing game starting at 7:30 pm, and we were not going to miss it. We made our way through Santo Domingo traffic and aggressive vendors to watch the Aguillas Cibaenes (Santiago) play the Leones del Licey (Santo Domingo).
We were treated to a pitchers duel between Bartolo Colon and Yuniesky Maya. Yes, that Bartolo Colon. His Wikipedia page says that he has not played since 2009 and refers to him as a former pitcher who has not yet formally retired. Well, he looked far from retired last night. He pitched 7 scoreless innings and the morning papers here report that Ron Washington was in the grandstands last night presumably to see Julio Borbon, but possibly also to see this surprising pitching performance by Colon.
Maya is also a great story. He was the top Cuban pitcher along with Aroldis Chapman. He pitched for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, but defected from Cuba in 2009 and is now with the Washington Nationals.
On any given day or night baseball stories and drama are developing here in the Caribbean.