Puerto Rico to the Promise Land

Edwin Correa didn't like what he was seeing out of the youth of his native Puerto Rico. He wondered how the country had lost some of its passion for baseball, and so he began searching for answers. Correa then came up with one, founding the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy & High School in Cagaus, PR. Its early impact has been phenomenal, and two recent Mariners' draft picks only serve as proof.

Edwin Correa made it to the big leagues in the mid 1980s after a youth spent in Puerto Rico, a country as passionate about the sport of baseball as any place in the world.

Correa was rated the No. 3 prospect in the Chicago White Sox's organization by Baseball America in 1984, and No. 6 the following year. The right-handed pitcher went on to play three seasons, spent with Chicago and Texas, going 16-19 with a 5.16 ERA over that time.

Puerto Rican players like Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, Juan Gonzalez, Bernie Williams and Ivan Rodriguez followed his path to the big leagues in the time since. Years before, it was Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda who made similar treks to America to play the game.

Times started to change in recent years, however, and the steady pipeline of players making their way from Puerto Rico to the United States had began to slow down considerably.

Correa saw a lack of interest in the current generation of Puerto Rican kids, a diminishment of focus on the sport that once ruled the tiny nation.

His answer? Founding the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy & High School, a haven for teenagers to grow both as baseball players and as young men.

Correa, 38, quickly turned the idea into a reality, and as of 2004 the school had gathered up 42 employees, including 19 with their sole purpose to serve as baseball coaches and mentors.

Over the course of the year, each of the 150 enrolled students spent their days gaining an education in the classroom and receiving daily instruction on the baseball diamond. The results were jaw-dropping; they became not just better human beings, but better ballplayers as well.

"We are changing the mentality that the Puerto Rican kid had before, that if he wasn't drafted out of high school he is done," said Correa. "We are doing more than playing baseball. We are educating them here. I feel very proud that we are making a difference in these kids' lives. They are great students."

Recently, some 60 seniors rounded out the first graduating class in the brief history of the academy. Many of them waited anxiously on Monday and Tuesday, hoping their time spent at the Cagaus, PR academy would allow them to get drafted by a major league team in the MLB First-Year-Player Draft.

That dream came true for 12 of them. And for 35 others, college scholarships await in the United States, according to Correa. Do the math, and that's 47 of the 60 seniors that have plans to play baseball in the U.S. in the coming months.

Two of those players have a chance to make the move to the states as a member of the Seattle Mariners organization, shortstop Jeffrey Dominguez and outfielder Luis Coste.

Dominguez, drafted in the 9th round (272th overall), is a switch-hitting 17-year-old who doesn't turn 18 until July 31. According to baseballamerica.com, he hits better from the left side and doesn't project to be a guy who'll develop much power. The Web site says the 6-foot-2, 153-pounder "compares favorably to Puerto Rican product Alex Cintron, a 36th-round draft pick in 1997 who is now the Diamondbacks everyday shortstop."

If he signs, which Correa says the shortstop will almost surely do, Dominguez will likely spend a year or two in Peoria, Ariz., with the Mariners' Rookie League affiliate.

Coste, 18, is a 6-foot-2, 172-pound athlete who projects as a right fielder. In MLB.com's scouting profile, Coste is noted for his "good aptitude and personality," regarded as a player who "loves to play and practice." As far as tools go, he is an aggressive right-handed batter with home run power and a level swing. More of a hitter than fielder now, that could change the more he matures and learns the game.

Drafted 1291st overall, there may be more of a signability concern with Coste.

Dominguez and Coste - two up-and-coming prospects from Puerto Rico, and a dream beginning to be realized by Edwin Correa.

Seattle Clubhouse Top Stories