The Canadian rule that prohibits major league clubs from signing players until they either turn 17 or finish the 11th grade, which has now been extended to Puerto Rico, could, in time, also be extended to other Latin American countries. Baseball took the initiative on this matter, but not, as you characterized it, to make "only a token change." We recognized that there were some problems associated with the signing of young Puerto Ricans, and we moved to remedy that situation. However, because of the great variance between the educational levels of Puerto Rican youths and those of other Latin American countries, we saw no basis for extending the rule beyond Puerto Rico at this time. We will follow the educational data as it develops.
Obviously, we disagree with Brubaker and SI over the interpretation of the UNESCO educational information that indicates only 53% to 62% of the boys in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Mexico between the ages of 12 and 17 attend school. When between one-third and one-half of a nation's junior high and high school age population does not attend school, I would call it significant. It may well be that 95% of the 12-year-olds are in school, while perhaps as few as 15% of the 17-year-olds are in attendance. If such is the case, most of the older boys signed to contracts will have dropped out of school before executing them. To these boys, baseball may well represent a better opportunity than other alternatives in their homeland. It would be interesting to know how many of the 55 young Latins, whom SI's survey shows as having signed, since 1978, a contract before their 17th birthday, actually were in school at the time of the signing.
There is increased recognition on the part of the U.S. clubs that lack of education and the language barrier are problems. Many clubs are working at improving the language skills of their foreign-born players and encouraging them to continue their education.
One area of professional baseball in the Caribbean was completely ignored in the article: The winter leagues, with the exception of the Puerto Rican League, themselves have no minimum-age rules. Puerto Rico has become the first to adopt a minimum signing age, and that came at our urging.
WILLIAM A. MURRAY
Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
New York City