Rizzo Explains The DR Mission
As promised, assistant GM Mike Rizzo was at the park today and held court -- at Stan Kasten's approval and encouragement -- about the recent trip to the Dominican. Stan offered a short introduction (groundrules, really). What follows is a transcript...
Kasten: I'll cut off if we go places we shouldn't go anyway, but Mike, why don't you take it away and talk about your last couple of days or when we started last Saturday, I guess.
Rizzo: A long, long time ago, in a place... [laugher] ... No, when Stan came to the office and we developed our Dominican Republic plan to restructure things in Latin American operations we put together a pretty aggressive itinerary for ourselves, and the goals were pretty lofty, and we thought that if we got close to achieving the majority of these goals we'd deem it a successful mission. We put a lot of thought and a lot of time and a lot of working into it pre-going over to the Dominican, and then when - I arrived there Tuesday. We went into place. Before that it just so happens that Fernando [Ravelo] was in town; his son goes to school here in Melbourne, Fla., college. And I got to speak with Fernando before I left to the Dominican Republic, and spoke to him about many, many things - one of them being, what is his interest in joining a major league organization. As most of you know he's the general manager of the very successful Licey team in the Dominican that's won many - well, he gave me his resume. It's pretty impressive.
Then I departed for the Dominican Republic, hit the ground running, literally. We saw eight academies the first day with myself and Moises De La Moto, our coordinator of Dominican scouting, who did an outstanding job organizing my pre-arrival... We went though a multitude of academies evaluating each and every option we had. Some longer-term, some short term. Then Wednesday, when Fernando and Mark joined me in the Dominican, we started making some tangible and definitive decisions on what we're going to do and how we're going to carry out the logistics of the plan.
We had, you know, obviously there are a lot of things involved in such an endeavor that we took over. You know, there's logistics. Moving vans that have to be rented. People that have to move the equipment. Legal issues that are involved in the termination of people. And there's the human factor. So with all that, we dove in and created a plan, and Thursday we made our way up to San Cristobal to the academy and talked to the staff there and terminated 10 of the staff members there, some front office and then player development; moved all the equipment and inventory from the academy up in San Cristobal to our new location which is in Boca Chica; gathered together all of our prospects, spoke to them, and told them exactly what was happening. There was a lot of innuendo and rumors and stories floating around. We wanted to tell them the official word on what we were doing. We told them everything from soup to nuts, we didn't hold anything back, we told it straight and honest, and the reception from the players - really, it shocked me a bit. They were happy, exuberant, and it was like the weight was lifted off their shoulders. Like the gray cloud was moved away from them.
With that, we gathered the players individually. We spoke to each and every player individually. Gave them a travel stipend to go home for the weekend, because as all of you know, it's the Dominican independence day today. So we gave them Friday off, and then we figured, we'll give them through the weekend. They're to report Monday to our new facility in Boca Chica. It's a gorgeous, brand new, spanking new facility that was built by the Rawlings glove manufacturer foundation. It was used for the WBC to do some - to conduct some workouts, some offseason workouts. But it's a gorgeous field, gorgeous facility. Two-and-a-half fields, covered batting cage, beautiful brand new clubhouse, eight beautiful pitching mounds, and the beautiful setting of Boca Chica, about 10 minutes from the international airport. We have them housed in a beautiful resort that with the help of Mark and Fernando negotiated a very equitable deal in a resort on the beach. Three to a room, air conditioning, cable TV, bathroom, four meals a day, 24-hour security. And it's really a nice situation for them.
They're extremely excited to begin the new phase of their Dominican careers, and you know, we pulled it together with the help of a lot of people here, a lot of people in the Dominican, and you know, with the help of Fernando who - he has a long reach in the States. He could do a lot with the phone. And Mark Scialabba, we worked into the night many many nights when we were there. We didn't get much sleep the last three days, but we think it went well. It wildly exceeded what I thought we were going to get accomplished when I landed there Tuesday. I think we more or less checked off everything we wanted to check off and accomplished our goals.
The staff, it's remarkable to get the staff - I remember saying it to Fernando, do get a staff at this time we were very, very lucky. Not only that he happened to be in Melbourne, Fla., when all this transpired, which was a complete coincidence - to get a general manager with his expertise and experience level to oversee the total Dominican operation, a family that's well-seen and well-versed in Dominican culture and is as well-respected as any man in the country, so we're very fortunate to have stumbled onto him.
We've hired Nelson Silverio, who has tremendous experience. He's a well-respected bilingual coach from the Dominican Republic. Coaches on the Licey ballclub in the winter. Has big-league experience as a coach, catching experience and a great hitting coach. He was in the big leagues with the Florida Marlins and also with the New York Mets, and was very instrumental in Jesus Flores' ascension...
Also [we've hired], Nelson Norman, who is a long-time major league player, long-time Dominican player, played in the big leagues for a long time, coached in several organizations...
The best of the questions
Q: You've done a lot in baseball. How did this compare?
It's something that doesn't compare to anything I've ever done. [Laughter] It was - when we landed today, I said, 'Do you believe what just happened?' It's one of those things, but we had a plan going in, and Stan mapped it out beforehand when I was here. We hit the ground running, and everything fell very nicely into place. We had a little good fortune on our side. But the footwork, being light on our feet and adapting really played into our hand.
Q: Do you know Spanish?
Muy poquito. [Very little]
Q: The facility you'll be using, is that close to the epicenter with six other organizations. Where geographically is your facility compared to those.
Yeah, they're all right there. The six-pack you're talking about, it's probably a couple miles away from that. There are 17 teams within three square miles of that facility.
Q: This Rawlings facility, do any other teams currently have their operation there?
Q: The ambition of this was daunting... When you first heard of this plan?
I always thought that my job was to get it done in 72 hours, and if it took five days I didn't think he'd be too mad about it. But I knew we had to get things done, I knew we had to get things done quickly. And we did not want to miss a beat. We wanted this Dominican operation to go on - smoothly. Put the things in the past in the past, and just move on and not miss a beat. And that was a big motivating factor for me; we wanted to keep doing what we're supposed to be doing.
Q: When you were talking about how the players were exuberant... what were the circumstances?
Well, the circumstances were, there was tension in everything that was going on in the academy is felt by the players, of course. We gathered them together and explained to them exactly what was going on - where they're going. We gave them all the details, so there was nothing they had to ask questions about or wonder about. It was like, here's what we're doing, it's a new beginning, a beautiful new facility, beautiful housing accommodations for you, and you know, here we go, we're going to start fresh and do it. We gave them a motivational speech about what are we here for? We're here for you to get out of this country and help us win championships for the Washington Nationals, and Monday, we're going to jump on and start your dream of getting to the big leagues.
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