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Bill Brubaker
July 13, 1981
Because no rules prevent it, many young Latins fall easy prey to unrealistic promises of fame and fortune in the big leagues
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July 13, 1981

Hey, Kid, Wanna Be A Star?

Because no rules prevent it, many young Latins fall easy prey to unrealistic promises of fame and fortune in the big leagues

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According to Howie Haak of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who has been scouting in Latin America since 1954, bonuses average $4,000 for Puerto Ricans, $3,000 for Venezuelans and $2,000 for players from the Dominican Republic and the other Latin nations. Ferreira confirms those estimates, but even scouts who say that Haak's figures may be low agree that the bonuses paid to Latin players are still only a trifle compared to those offered better-educated Americans.

"We get less money than the American guys, and I don't see the reason for it," says Philadelphia Phillie reserve Infielder Ramon Aviles, a Puerto Rican who signed his first pro contract with Boston. According to the Boston Red Sox, with whom he originally signed in 1970 at 17, he received a $700 bonus. "When I came to spring training I heard all these [American] guys in the infield saying they got $40,000 or $45,000," says Aviles. "I'd look at some of them and say. They don't have the ability I've got.' "

Twelve-year major league veteran Dave Concepcion is still bitter that he received no bonus when he signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1967. "I asked for a bonus," says Concepcion, a Venezuelan. "He [the scout who signed him] said, 'We don't give bonuses anymore.' He lied to me."

"I try not to offer a player a bonus, if I can help it," Ferreira says. "I treat this money exactly like it's coming out of my own pocket and don't think about how much of it Mr. Steinbrenner may have. I could be a nice guy and offer big bonuses, but a nice guy may have to look for a job. The poorest countries are the easiest to negotiate in because the kids there are the hungriest. You give some of these kids a $1,000 bonus and you'd think you'd just given them $100,000, their parents are so unbelievably thankful."

•Complaints that scouts oversign in Latin America, bringing in players who are unlikely to become even successful minor-leaguers.

"They sign 25 guys and maybe only one is a good player," says Alou, who manages the Montreal Expos' Triple A club in Denver. "It's like they throw a net into the ocean, hoping that maybe they'll get a big fish. The problem is, if they don't get a big fish, they'll throw all the smaller ones back. And if the competition is between keeping a $500 Latin player or an American player who got a $15,000 bonus, who do you think the organization is going to keep?"

Montreal player development director Jim Fanning agrees. "It doesn't cost much to bring Latins to spring training," he says, "so if they don't make it, you're not out very much."

•Complaints that some U.S. baseball officials make discriminatory generalizations about Latin players.

Indeed, one major league organization has compiled a confidential report intended to show that Latins can be a risky investment because of problems that include: "general language barrier...disregard for personal financial obligations...petty theft...federal income tax problems...illiteracy...unsanitary conditions in player's apartment creating bad community image for the major league organization."

•Complaints that many scouts assume that if a Latin boy doesn't quit school to play baseball, he'll quit for some other reason. Also, complaints that scouts think an education in Latin America isn't worth much.

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