Common sense management
Perez provides social conscience for Dominican baseball prospects
BY KEVIN BAXTER
NIGUA, Dominican Republic - Shortly after Rafael Perez joined the New York Mets as director of international development in March 2005, he noticed the club's Dominican prospects seemed uncomfortable and out of sorts at the team's rookie league camp in Port St. Lucie.
And the problem, he quickly determined, wasn't on the field. It was in the cafeteria.
``Half the players and staff were Latin,'' he says ``and the menu had no Latin dishes.''
So Perez sent the Mets' chefs to a local restaurant to learn how to cook Dominican food and two weeks later rice, beans, yucca and fried plantains started appearing on the daily menu.
``We have to understand their background. And sometimes you have to go one step better to understand them,'' Perez says of the Mets' Latin players. ``If you have 30 percent Latin players, then your meals should reflect that and 30 percent of it should be geared to Latin players.''
But spicing up lunch isn't the only thing Perez has done to help ease the transition from the Dominican to the U.S. Since joining the team a year ago, Perez has also:
_Overseen the move of the Mets' Dominican training facility from the smog-choked Olympic Park in central Santo Domingo to a modern three-field complex hidden among laurel and mango trees not far from the Caribbean.
_Begun expanding a program in which the team brings as many as five of its top U.S. prospects to its Dominican academy each winter to train and bond with their future teammates.
_Proposed cultural diversity classes for coaches and players in the Mets' system.
_Followed the Cleveland Indians' example by joining a revolutionary educational program that will allow his players, most of whom dropped out of school to play ball, a chance to finish their elementary or high school studies at the Mets' expense.
What? Not make them eat white food, and show they want to be Americans, ridiculous. Being an American means giving up your heritage, don't you get it?
And they had to send chefs to learn how to cook rice and beans? They didn't have a Cuban or Puerto Rican cook on staff? Ok. No wonder they were unhappy.
posted by Steve @ 12:02:00 AM