CLEARWATER, Fla. — Maikel Franco’s introduction to professional baseball began with a stop at a training academy that the Phillies leased in the town of Boca Chica, about a 30-minute drive from Santo Domingo, the capital city in the Dominican Republic.
The Phillies have leased four different academies in the Dominican Republic, Franco's home country, since ramping up scouting and player-development efforts in Latin America in 1994.
This will be the last season that the team will lease a facility. Future Maikel Francos will train at a state-of-the-art, team-owned facility.
Last year, the Phillies and Minnesota Twins partnered to purchase 45 acres of land in Boca Chica and construction of a new, semi-shared, multi-million dollar facility is well underway. The complex is scheduled to open sometime in September.
Each team will own its own separate baseball and training facility — fields, batting cages, weight rooms and medical areas, etc. — and employ their owns coaching/training staffs. The teams will share kitchen, dining, auditorium and field maintenance facilities and costs. Each team will have its own dormitory.
“They are separate academies, but we’re sharing some operation costs,” said Lee McDaniel, the Phillies' director of minor league operations. “A couple of years ago we made the decision that we wanted to buy land and build and own our own facility. We were on the same timeline with the Twins. They had similar concepts and philosophies with what we wanted to do. It’s been a tremendous partnership.
“This whole project is a testament to our ownership’s commitment to player development. We have great facilities all over our player-development system and this caps it off.”
When completed, the Phillies’ new academy will have three full fields, a 30,000 square-foot building that will house administrative offices, a clubhouse, athletic training facilities, a video coaching area and weight room. Up to 78 players can live in the 20,000 square-foot dormitory. McDaniel said there are usually about 60 players at the academy at one time and the facility operates year round.
The players at the academy are essentially entry-level professionals, as young as 16. They play academy-based teams from other Major League organizations in the Dominican Summer League. If they progress, they can earn their way to a minor-league team based in the U.S. and maybe someday to the majors.
The Phillies continue to lease an academy in Venezuela though the Venezuelan Summer League but will not operate this year due to safety concerns in that country (see story). The Phils will field two Dominican Summer League teams this year.