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Nats Close To Finalizing New Site In D.R.

From one of three potential sites in the Dominican Republic, the Washington Nationals will soon headquarter their new Latin American baseball academy, reestablishing themselves in a country that previously linked them to embarrassment and scandal.

Last Monday, general manager Mike Rizzo, team president Stan Kasten, and principal owner Mark Lerner took a one-day trip to the Dominican, scouting three sites for a new, permanent complex. Soon, the Nationals hope to pick a spot and begin construction. The goal: By spring 2010, Washington's Latin American prospects have their own facility. And the Nationals have a base for their international scouting efforts.

"We're well on our way to turning this thing around," Rizzo said, "and we're going to have one of the jewels of the Caribbean and really take it and run with being a real big player in Latin America."

Only seven months ago, Washington's Dominican operations derailed. The Nationals learned that their top international prospect, Esmailyn Gonzalez, was four years older than he claimed. Their general manager, Jim Bowden, resigned amid a Dominican scouting-related federal investigation. With Bowden and Dominican chief Jose Rijo gone, the team relocated its Dominican academy to an on-loan facility in Boca Chica. The Nationals have since been operating with a skeletal international staff.

But now, Rizzo is ready to change that. He has been looking at candidates for numerous Latin American scouting positions -- most important, a director of international operations. (Rizzo called an report, which citing Washington's interest in Miguel Nava, "inaccurate." He added, "I had a relationship with Miguel Nava with Arizona but I never talked to him about a job with Washington. Ever." Nava, who currently works for the Diamondbacks, is also under investigation for alleged bonus skimming.)

Of the three sites under consideration, two are in Boca Chica and the other is in San Pedro de Macoris.

"We're well under way to finalizing terms," Rizzo said. "It's something we're looking forward to, being next year in a brand new Dominican facility."

By Chico Harlan  |  September 12, 2009; 11:52 AM ET
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Is the ability to speak spanish a requirement for directing international operations?

Posted by: von_bluff | September 12, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Maybe by this time next year, we won't have to see historic references to either "the Smiley incident" or the "the Bowden fiasco" when the D.R. is being discussed.

Posted by: BinM | September 12, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

We can only hope, BinM. And thanks for the answers in the last post.

Posted by: Scooter_ | September 12, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

What's the status of that federal investigation, Chico? Is Bowden still a subject of it?

Posted by: Juan-John | September 12, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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