In recent years, several Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have been involved in improper conduct regarding legal signing age for players in other countries. The prospective players most affected by this mainly reside in Latin American countries, most notably the Dominican Republic.
It has been reported to the MLB that players, some no older than 12 years old, are involved in verbal contracts with MLB teams, in which they have agreed to sign on to those teams when they have reached the legal age of 16. Not only is this detrimental, in that they are still young and not in a position to make those life-changing decisions, but it can also negatively affect their futures and close them off to other opportunities.
Most young players entering into these agreements are offered money as a promised signing bonus, which they are given when they are the age of compliance and officially join the team. While it can be very beneficial for their families to have this money and more security in their future, it does not always achieve this effect.
After making agreements with these players it is not unusual for teams to later rescind their offers, which leaves players in an incredibly complex situation. Firstly, they no longer have the money that was promised to them, which they may have been relying on. According to ESPN, it is common for players and their families to use this promise of money to take out loans to improve their current living situations. However, when that promised money is taken away, they are no longer able to pay off these loans, leaving them in more debt.
These types of agreements are often used to take aspiring players off the market and make them less available to other teams. In return for these agreements, players may be asked to not participate in showcases or engage in conversations with other teams as their participation is already promised to one team. As other teams see these players as unavailable, they do not give them the attention they normally would as they are committed to another team.
Along with recruiting difficulties, another set of opportunities taken away from these players is educational. It is not uncommon for players to be taken out of school early to have more time to devote to playing baseball. This lack of education can make other careers more difficult for players to obtain, leaving them in a difficult struggle to join a team that for years has seen them as unattainable and therefore not paid any attention to them.
As previously mentioned, these practices are illegal for teams to participate in. According to the MLB’s international amateur signing rules in the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement, a requirement to enter into an agreement with a team is that the “Player is at least 16 years of age or will turn 16 years of age prior to Sept. 1 of the current signing period.”
In order to improve the situation that these prospective players are in, some have suggested that the MLB have an international draft. The basic premise is that it would facilitate communications between players and teams, and add some structure to the system, and provide the players with more options. Unfortunately, progress on this has not been made.
This issue of inequality affects not only Latinx players, but also aspiring baseball players around the world and at Berkeley High School. This specific issue is just one of the flaws in the systems of professional sports, and those values can trickle down throughout sports culture.