For many aspiring baseball players in the Dominican Republic, the sport is often seen as the ticket out of poverty. Young men live and breathe the successes of players such as Pedro Martínez and Sammy Sosa, seeing them as testaments to the promise that baseball holds—the chance to shape a life different from the one they’ve known.
The baseball industry is important culturally, socially and economically to the island of the Dominican Republic. As of 2005, there were 30 baseball academies in the Dominican Republic sponsored by major league organizations. Most were located in predominantly poor communities. Their existence is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it provides the young men of the area with an opportunity to do something. Many of these young men, however, choose to drop out of school to be able to train seriously.
With so much at stake, the chances for exploitation of the players are high. Common in the game are buscones, “agents” who promise to oversee the player’s career in exchange for a steep commission if the player is signed. In 2001, a buscón based in Santo Domingo charged a reported $150,000 of Yankee prospect Melky Cabrera's $175,000 signing bonus.