Sometimes it's easy to forget that our heroes in orange-and-blue are human, and that some elements of baseball go beyond wins and losses. SNY’s latest special, Los Mets: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, paints one of these human elements in greatest and most brilliant detail.
The Steve Gelbs-narrated feature focuses on the country’s obsession with baseball, the uphill battles that most young Dominican players and their families face, and how MLB has worked to fix some of the major flaws in its process of managing their Dominican-grown talent.
The piece further details how all of the above has impacted the Mets, and how the Mets have become one of league-wide trailblazers in improving the environment in which young Dominican players develop. Gelbs and the SNY team examine the Mets' baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, conduct interviews with the Mets Latin American and DR-specific scouts, and trace back the journeys of Amed Rosario and Jeurys Familia, two of the more recent Dominican success stories to end up in Queens.
The three-part presentation is compelling from start to finish, but a few elements supersede the rest:
Sandy Alderson’s mission planted strong Mets roots. Prior to becoming Mets general manager, one of Sandy Alderson’s last tasks working for the league was to investigate the MLB’s faulty dealings with Dominican players. He traveled to the DR not only to find out the problems their players were facing in their path to the MLB, but to implement long-term solutions to these problems that could be sustained league-wide. He helped implement standard PED testing, a registration to prevent age and identity fraud, and helped lay the groundwork for model baseball academies for all 30 teams. Sandy’s original investigations and interests in the DR clearly carried over into his role as the Mets GM, which has laid a strong foundation for the Mets’ current influence and involvement in the country’s development of its baseball players. His tenure has also overseen a handful of successful stints from Dominican players in the Mets organization, such the aforementioned Familia and Rosario, Juan Lagares, and Hansel Robles.
The Mets’ standout Baseball Academy goes beyond the game. Los Mets gives fans a look into the state-of-the-art baseball academy that the Mets have set up in the Dominican Republic. It’s clear that the organization continually invests in its DR operation, boasting state-of-the-art facilities and fields, employing experienced and qualified talent scouts, and setting up an education outside of baseball for its attendees. One of the major problems that Sandy and the MLB initially found when investigating the handling of Dominican Republic players was that a lot of them forgo an education at a young age in hopes of pursuing an MLB dream. And even though the Dominican Republic is seen to have exceptional talent, the majority of the players fail to turn pro, leaving them very little to fall back on. The Mets have been at the forefront to make sure that players in the Dominican not only have the resources to pursue their baseball dreams, but that they also have access to an education if baseball doesn’t work out.
Steve Gelbs is a great journalist. We may associate Steve with sideline check-ins during the broadcasts, or as the host of Fantastic Finishes during rain delays, but Los Mets gives him an opportunity to showcase his journalism chops. Gelbs skillfully ties all three parts of the series together with excellent narration, telling interviews with scouts and directors of the academies, and intimate conversations with Rosario, Familia, and their respective families. The pinnacle of his work comes when he travels to the Dominican Republic with Familia, where Steve and an emotional, yet guarded Jeurys discuss his poor upbringing and the improbability of his success. Steve does an excellent job in evoking the human and humble side of our star closer. To channel our inner Keith, “That’s some fine work, Gelbsy.”
Be sure to check out SNY's Los Mets: Baseball in the Dominican Republic: