Feature: Star Goalkeeper Spends Summer Studying Baseball In Dominican Republic

Feature: Star Goalkeeper Spends Summer Studying Baseball In Dominican Republic

Story written by Kimberly Weinberg, Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Sarah Dailey of Butler has made her name at Pitt-Bradford as the Panthers' star soccer goalie.

            She spent her summer, however, on baseball diamonds in the Dominican Republic and small-town Pennsylvania, learning about and working with the players of Major League Baseball's farm system.

            Although she loves to play soccer, when it comes to watching and taking part in a sport, the sport and recreation management major prefers baseball.

            Professional baseball, with its extensive farm system of hundreds of minor league teams in small and medium-sized cities across the country, has more chances for those who want a job in sports to find one. That is one of the things Dailey finds attractive about it.

             In addition to minor league teams, all 30 Major League franchises also run baseball academies in the Dominican Republic, which has long been known for producing great players like pitcher Pedro Martinez and homerun heavyweight Vladimir Guerrero.

             Dailey secured an internship with the Houston Astros' Latin American baseball academy in the capital of Santo Domingo through the Council on International Education Exchange. Although the Astros located their academy in the capital, many are out in the country, Dailey explained, and it is not uncommon to be driving through a rural area and come across a modern baseball stadium.

             According to The World Factbook website, more than 30 percent of Dominicans live below the poverty line. Athletic children and their families dream of being lifted out of poverty through baseball, and a unique system has developed around that hope.

             Students can sign with a baseball academy at age 16, Dailey explained, and many students drop out of school at age 14 to begin working full time with an independent trainer in hopes of being accepted to a major league academy. The players receive free room and board with a trainer, she said. If an academy signs a player, the trainer gets a large portion of his signing bonus.

             Dailey said that baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, although she did see children playing basketball and soccer as well. Equipment is expensive for Little League-level teams, and children go searching for lost balls, use sticks for bats and glove barehanded.

             Even if a child is signed by an academy, Dailey said, chances are still slim that he will make it to the United States. About 3 percent of the players from the academies make it to the states; only 1 percent will make it to the Major Leagues.

             The Astros' program is one of the few to hire U.S. interns for its academy, Dailey said. The interns, however, do not work directly in baseball operations. She spent her time tutoring players in English. Those players come from throughout the Latin American world, not just the Dominican Republic.

             She said she could tell that students from some countries, such as Venezuela and Mexico, had had access to a better education system and collectively had stronger English and math skills.

             When she was not teaching students herself, she lived with a host family and took classes in the culture of Caribbean sports and ethical issues in Dominican sports. Field trips included not only some beautiful beaches, but also a trip to the New York Mets' academy.

             "It was like a baseball resort," she said.

             Back home in Pennsylvania, she spent the rest of her summer as an intern with an independent professional team, the Washington (Pennsylvania) Wild Things, and a summer college league team, the Butler Blue Sox.

             They provided an opportunity to gain experience in several areas. Dailey worked with media and communications and handled social media like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. She worked the scoreboard.

             "I realized how much I love sports," she said. "I loved showing up in the ballpark and calling it my job."