Although she never hit a home run in her life, baseball brought senior Alexandria Rogers to the Dominican Republic (DR) last summer.
She didn’t play the sport, but worked in the Caribbean nation as an intern with the Major League Baseball offices for 10 weeks. The Atlanta native found a way to combine her love for sports and her knowledge of Spanish in her position as an education initiative and community outreach assistant in the capital city of Santo Domingo.
“No matter where I went throughout the island, I always remembered the people I came in contact with, how nice they were, how open and willing they were to talk,” Rogers said. “In DR, I never came in contact with a person that did not make me feel welcomed and comfortable.”
Her experience may directly affect her future. She is applying for jobs and additional internships in the sports industry after graduation, including with ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando and the Houston Texans.
“The opportunity to work for Major League Baseball is incredible,” said Paul Resnick, internship director for the sports administration program in the School of Education.
Rogers first learned about the for-credit internship through a program at the Toppel Career Center. She was placed in the MLB Dominican Republic offices through InteRDom, an international exchange program that coordinates field appropriate internships in the DR.
According to education professor Tywan Martin, Rogers got firsthand experience in the MLB facilities.
“She got to see what they’re doing abroad,” Martin said. “The facilities down there, they’re amazing. I had no idea.”
On MLB opening day in 2013, 28.2 percent of players were born outside of the U.S., with 89 of the total 856 players born in the DR.
MLB provides opportunities for team scouts to recruit Dominican and Latin American talent through clinics, showcases, and academies. The academies, mostly located in DR, are where Rogers did her work, and they prepare Latin American players for professional careers. They provide English language courses and community service projects, among other opportunities in their education-based programs.
“It was also very eye opening seeing [the poorer] parts of the country, helping people in need, learning more about the education system and the importance of it in the academies and just Dominican culture in general,” Rogers said.
The academies provide crucial education for the Latin American players hoping to be recruited by American teams. MLB spends a lot of money in the DR on these programs because it’s a matter of economics, according to Martin.
“For the cost it would take you to develop American talent, you can take that money and shift it [down there],” Martin said. “For the one person here, you could easily develop five to 10 in the DR.”
Rogers’ second major in Spanish has proven invaluable for entrance into the tough industry. She noted that one of the problems in the industry is the lack of international perspective and understanding of Dominican people.
“You always need somebody who understands another perspective in the industry, because it’s a big industry, but a lot of people don’t have that international work experience where they can understand why oh this Dominican player did this,” Rogers said.
The industry is already rife with misunderstanding about the Spanish-speaking population, according to Martin.
“One of the biggest things, the biggest misnomers for some of these leagues, even at the NFL, is that they lump the Spanish-speaking groups together,” Martin said. They’ll lump the Mexican community together with the Puerto Rican community. They think Mariachi music can apply to everything. It does not.”
Rogers believes the DR program is important to the future of the baseball industry.
“It’s kind of a necessity,” she said. “You have to learn where most of the people in the industry come from in order to know who they are.”
When Rogers returned to campus last fall, she presented to both Martin and Resnick’s classes about her experiences abroad.
“What was cool – I don’t know if students took this away from it – to see the amount of money that the MLB organizations have put into the DR and that community,” Martin said. “Because there’s a lot of really, really good athletes, and this is their way of cultivating relationships with the talent that’s down there.”
Just as in many other industries, internships during college are necessary for students studying sports administration.
“It’s the most critical element in the degree,” Resnick said. “Without internships in this program, it’ll be impossible to land something [after graduation].”
At the end of the summer, Rogers said she did not want to end her first trip to the DR.
“I did not want to leave the place that took care of me and I called home for the past three months,” she said. “I did not want to leave the people I had met at work and outside of work. … I did not want to leave the sense of calm, peace, contentment I felt there and return to the U.S. where everybody is always worried about everything.”