In recent years, Dominican players such as Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero and Albert Pujols have become stars in the major leagues. But the system that produced them is rife with corruption and exploitation, according to baseball officials and scouts. It is dominated by a growing army of street-level entrepreneurs known as buscones, or finders, who groom prospects from puberty before bringing them to market. The street agents extract a portion of the player's signing bonus -- at times as much as 50 percent -- and often an additional payment from the team, even though such payments violate major league rules.
Major league teams draw from "the poorest of the poor," said Seibel. Many teams employ dentists to repair the rotted teeth of players who grow up subsisting largely on sugar cane. Because many prospects are malnourished, street agents often provide supplements such as protein powders that promote rapid weight gain. The growing use of veterinary substances is an extension of this practice, according to scouts and coaches.
"There are a lot of people out there that are injecting this stuff into these kids," said Yuly Pozo, who trains prospects in San Pedro de Macoris, a port city famous for churning out major leaguers, including Sosa. "They want some kid to throw hard, and they don't care if they destroy him as long they get their cut. If you're a person with any kind of conscience, how can you put something like this into a human being when you know the consequences it can bring? These are veterinary products, for animals."