While the Colorado Rockies were playing in the 2007 World Series, the Padres hired Felix Feliz away from the Rox with the hope that he would help them emulate their success in locating and signing talent in Latin America. As a player, Feliz, 40, was a career minor-league second baseman in Pittsburgh’s farm system. He later managed a Dodgers club in the Dominican Summer League and he was a top aide to Rolando Fernandez, Colorado’s director of international operations while with the Rox.
The Padres don’t have any Dominicans on their 25- or 40-man rosters and have just one Latin American player who is on their 40-man roster that began his professional career within the organization.
But the Padres are serious about their efforts in Latin America. In addition to hiring Feliz, they built an $8.5 million 15-acre facility, which opened this month in the city of Najayo, San Cristobal. Feliz says it is better than any other complex in the country. It can host up to 70 players, but they are currently at about half that with others there for tryouts. In addition to Dominican players, there are plans to house players from Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Colombia.
Acquiring international talent is different from the typical draft that occurs throughout Major League Baseball. June 2nd is the international signing day for players who have turned 16 during the previous year. According to Grady Fuson, the Padresâ€™ Vice President of Scouting and Player Development, players can expect to spend about 1-3 years at the complex before coming to the Unites States.
“It’s very important for a player to spend at least one year at the complex. Coming to the United States early can be an ordeal. And just because a player might spend two or three years at the complex doesn’t mean he’s not a prospect. The six-year clock (for minor leaguers) doesn’t start ticking until they come to the United States. While most players are gifted skillwise, a lot of them are raw when it comes to mechanics. And remember, they’re very young” [source: SignOnSanDiego].
Players started moving into the facility on April 6 and began working out two days later. Instruction began April 12. It will operate 8 1/2 to nine months a year. Tomorrow, the complex will celebrate its grand opening.
n addition to setting new standards for Major League Baseball facilities and their operation in the Dominican Republic, the Padres have already made a significant commitment to the local Najayo community. The club entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with ENTRENA, a Dominican education company, along with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and the American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic to work collaboratively to improve the quality of basic primary school education in the country.
This yearâ€™s Wizards squad sees some solid Latin prospects, like Luis Durango and Yefri Carvajal. Over the next couple years, provided the Wizards remain a Padres affiliate, we can probably expect to see more on the field in Fort Wayne.
Further Reading: SignOnSanDiego | ESPN | MadFriars