by Eric Jackson
The national junior baseball tournament begins on Friday with Panama Metro visiting defending champion Cocle. Looking at the FEDEBEIS website, they don’t have the first-round schedule posted yet. I don’t yet know whether the opening game takes place in Penonome or Aguadulce. (If in the former I just might go.)
GENERALLY a flock of Major League Baseball coaches come here for the tournament and go back having signed a number of these teenagers to professional contracts. The scouting practices have changed over the years, as there is now a draft for young Latin American players. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but I suspect that this keeps the signing bonuses down for the Major League organizations.
Sadly, the NCAA doesn’t do that same and offer scholarships to athletes who could make the academic grade — it’s a quiet deal that has been made with professional baseball that they don’t. The way that a Panamanian kid gets to play NCAA ball is to go to a high school in the USA and get recruited there, or get into a university as an ordinary enrollment and walk on to make the team. For MOST players, four years developing at a US university is a better deal that playing those four years in the minors, as they can come away with an education that would have a lifetime value.
Israel Delgado, the Cuban manager of a young this year Herrera team, opined in La Estrella that this year won’t be a good one for outstanding pitching. (Cuba as exporter of athletic and coaching talent is another huge story in and of itself. Here Delgado is diplomatically correct in not mentioning the politics and racket of Panamanian baseball, what with a long tradition of FEDEBEIS being run by parasitic legislators. That’s also a major story by itself.)
Anyway, Delgado suggests that we may not see the next Mariano Rivera in this year’s tournament. Perhaps, however, we will see a big time franchise player slugger of the future. Or EVEN, your editor hopes, the Panamanian who will lead the long-suffering Detroit Tigers to another World Series championship after all these years.
For baseball fans these tournaments are a lot of fun. You need to be masked and vaccinated to get in the stadiums.
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