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Last modified: Monday, January 27, 2003

New book exposes the dark side of Major League Baseball's recruitment practices in Latin America

Sammy Sosa and other Latin American superstars have overcome a history of discrimination to strike gold in baseball's big leagues. But there are thousands more who never make it to "The Show." Stealing Lives: The Globalization of Baseball and the Tragic Story of Alexis Quiroz, a new book published by Indiana University Press today (Jan. 27), documents the abuses that happen as baseball becomes a globalized business.

Authors Arturo J. Marcano Guevara, the international legal adviser to the Venezuelan Baseball Players Association, and David P. Fidler, professor of law at Indiana University Bloomington, expose the ways in which major league teams violate basic human rights in their efforts to secure cheap labor. The story of one Venezuelan teenager is set against the backdrop of ongoing exploitation, for Alexis Quiroz's experience is not an isolated case.

Lured by the promise of fame and fortune and the encouragement of baseball scouts, many Dominican and Venezuelan boys leave school by the age of 11 or 12. Quiroz was unusual in having finished high school before joining one of the Chicago Cubs' Latin American academies in 1995. At the time, he should have received a $6,000 signing bonus, but since neither Quiroz nor his family could read the contract, which was written in English, they did not realize that the scout pocketed a third of the money.

Playing in the Dominican summer league, Quiroz and other young hopefuls lived in slum dwellings. Their food was meager, they had no running water, and the ballparks where they played were rundown and poorly equipped. Most shocking of all, sick or injured players were not given medical care. At the age of 18, Quiroz suffered a severe arm injury and was cut from the team, his baseball career abruptly ended before it had really started.

Unlike most young players chewed up and spit out by the system, however, Quiroz was determined to pursue justice and to get the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball to do the right thing. He traveled to the United States and worked with an investigative agency that collected documents that would prove an embarrassment to the Cubs.

In Venezuela he met with Marcano, who, along with Fidler, invited him to come to Bloomington, Ind., during a 1999 trip to the United States. There they interviewed him in depth for their research on the globalization of baseball. Quiroz hoped to gain attention not only for his own case, but also for other young and vulnerable players. Neither officials of the Chicago Cubs nor the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office would respond to Marcano's and Fidler's requests for interviews.

Quiroz's ordeal with the Cubs forced him to think about the meaning of justice and law's place in it. His frustrations mutated into an ambition to become a lawyer, and he now attends law school in Venezuela. Although he finally received a small settlement from the Cubs, he had to sign away his right to receive future medical care should his condition deteriorate. He has never received an apology, and the Cubs and the Baseball Commissioner's Office have yet to acknowledge that their treatment of Latin players violates basic human rights and labor standards.

Nothing has changed for other young baseball hopefuls in Latin America since Quiroz embarked on his search for justice. Stealing Lives concludes with a proposal for much-needed reforms: the institution of an international draft, the creation of a Major League Baseball code of conduct, and, with assistance and solidarity from the Major League Baseball Players Association, the creation of a union to protect the interests of Latin American minor league players.

Book Information

Stealing Lives: The Globalization of Baseball and the Story of Alexis Quiroz
by Arturo J. Marcano Guevara and David P. Fidler

Published January 2003 by Indiana University Press

272 pages, 11 b&w photos, 5 tables, 1 map, notes, bibl., index, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Cloth; $27.95; ISBN 0-253-34191-4

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