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TeamBoone
02-26-2006, 06:28 PM
02-25-2006
Dominican exhibition a possibility
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter


SARASOTA, Fla. - The Reds' traveling party didn't even spend the night in the Dominican Republic, flying down and back on a site visit Thursday, but CEO Bob Castellini liked what he saw.

At an impromptu press conference in the capital city of Santo Domingo, Castellini said he would like to see the Reds play an exhibition series in the Dominican - perhaps as early as next year. He suggested the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of the other tenants at the Dominican complex the Reds use, as a possible opponent. The proposal was big news in Listin Diario, a prominent Dominican newspaper, and Castellini acknowledged upon returning to Reds camp Friday that he'd like to explore the possibility.

He said any exhibition would be contingent on Major League Baseball's approval. That has been a holdup in the past, as MLB wants to see improvements made on the main stadium in the capital, Estadio Quisqueya, before approving a game involving big-league teams. Quisqueya, which seats about 20,000, hosted the most recent exhibitions in the country, a two-game set between the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox in March 2000.

Listin Diario indicated Dominican officials are moving to address those stadium improvements. The Dominican president, Leonel Fernandez, is known as a major supporter of sports in the country. He was supposed to meet with the Reds' party Thursday but a conflict arose and he had to cancel. Instead, the Dominican minister of sports, Felipe Payano, welcomed the Reds.

Payano is a friend of Mario Soto, the former Reds pitcher and current instructor who joined Castellini, general manager Wayne Krivsky and player development director Johnny Almaraz on the one-day trip.

Though the press conference ended up making most of the news locally, the Reds were more focused on what they saw at the complex in Boca Chica, not far from the capital. They have used the four-team facility since 2004, sharing it with the Twins, Diamondbacks and Cubs.

"I was really impressed," Castellini said. "I'm so happy I made that trip. Johnny Almaraz has done a great job there."

The Reds focused more energies on their Dominican and Venezuelan academies after Dan O'Brien took over as GM. Their Dominican facility had been at former pitcher Jose Rijo's complex in San Cristobal, but they moved to "Baseball City" in Boca Chica so the home office could have a more direct role in development of their youngest prospects.

Almaraz, the director of international scouting under O'Brien, spent a significant amount of time there, working with Latin American field coordinator Marco Davalillo to bring some cohesiveness to the team's Dominican wing.

"We were told by several people down there that we've got the most improved operation on the island," Castellini said. "The Reds are very well thought of in the Dominican."

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