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"Baseball doesn't induce anyone to leave school. These guys aren't going to finish school anyway," says Haak. "I'll bet you there isn't one guy out of 20 who signed from Latin America who ever finished high school. The idea that they finish school is a lot of bull."
"In all Latin America, there's not much difference between a sophomore and a senior in high school," says Ferreira. "Believe me, I'm not knocking education. We try to encourage our players to finish high school during the off-season. The main thing is that we're giving these kids a chance to have a great career in the big leagues. Of course, the odds are against them."
"In the Dominican Republic, the kids aren't even in school," says Phillie Coach Ruben Amaro, a Mexican who was his club's Latin American scouting coordinator for six years. "They're out working anyway, so you're just offering them the opportunity to make a living at baseball. Here in the U.S., it's almost mandatory that kids finish high school. Over there it isn't. Really, almost since they're six years old, kids are working. And doing nothing worthwhile."
•Complaints that some scouts demand under-the-table cuts from the bonuses given their Latin signees.
"It's shameful but true," says Gil. "We have a few scouts in Puerto Rico who'll charge players a percentage of their bonus money to sign them. For these scouts, the point is not whether these players have a chance of making the big leagues or not. The point is, how much money can the scout make? If the scout can sign 10 players and get $1,000 from each, he has made a fast $10,000."
•Complaints that clubs release Latin players too quickly, without allowing them a period of adjustment.
"The coaches and the minor league managers in the States have to realize that we're different," says Cepeda. "The language, the food, the weather, the customs—it's very hard for a young Latin player to produce right away. But, many times, they're expected to."
"If the teams sign these players when they're 16, then the teams ought to keep them around for at least three years," says former American League batting champion Tony Oliva, a Cuban who's now a minor league coach for the Minnesota Twins. "A scout signs them because he thinks they have a future, but they often don't get a chance to prove that. They're competing against Americans who are 20 or 21 or older, and it's hard for them to show their real ability right off when they are that young. It may take five years for the player to show what he can really do. The situation is difficult because there aren't as many minor leagues as there used to be."
Fortunately, some clubs do allow players an adjustment period. "We try to make it a policy to keep Latin kids at least two years," says Bruce Manno, the Milwaukee Brewers' administrative assistant for scouting and player development. "It wouldn't be fair to release them any sooner. It usually takes them two years because of the adjustment to the surroundings and the environment, so we give them the benefit of the doubt."
"They walk into spring training like little babies," says California Angel Coach Preston Gomez, a native of Cuba. "They're handicapped by the language barrier, and that keeps them from becoming good players. I tell them to try to learn the language as fast as they can. The sooner they do it, the better they'll be."