BRADENTON, Fla. – Almost exactly ten years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates opened their academy in the Dominican Republic. Today, Pirates’ owner Bob Nutting revealed that the team has broken ground on a major expansion to that facility, which will double the size of the academy, along with other improvements.
Nutting was asked about how the team was spending the BAMTech money they received last year — the one time, $50 M payment that was given to every owner from the sale of BAMTech to Disney — and one of the things he mentioned was the academy expansion.
“I think the important thing for us is we really view [the BAMTech payment] as a return of capital, so we need to think of it how it invests long-term to impact the club,” Nutting said. “We’re trying to maintain some flexibility. You talk about investing in capital or the club, and I really see those as very closely linked.
“We just got on a call this morning, we’re breaking ground now on a major expansion in the facility in the Dominican. I think where we really announce that with pictures is when we do the ribbon cutting. I’d much rather announce things we’ve done, as opposed to things we’re planning to do. But it is a good example of investing in the long-term future of the club.”
Pirates Prospects can confirm that work is being done. We heard about plans for work at the Dominican Academy, dating back to John Dreker hearing about it for the first time last October. We hadn’t been able to get specifics, although we did just hear that more international players are training earlier in Bradenton than in previous years when those players would arrive in late-March and early-April.
The Pirates just went back to having two teams in the Dominican Summer League last year, which isn’t a new approach for them. They had two DSL teams in 2012 and 2013, but dropped down to one team when they added Bristol to the farm system. They expanded back to having two teams last year, around the same time that they started signing more players with their expanded international budget.
Nutting said that the expansion would double the size of the facility, while dramatically improving workout and nutrition facilities, and housing twice as many players.
“I think that’s going to be a real impact in the club, not this year’s major league club, but a real impact in the strength in the Pittsburgh Pirates, just as when we did that initial investment ten years ago,” Nutting said.
Doubling the facility is interesting, as the Pirates were able to handle two teams worth of players before. They’ve been adding a lot more players in recent years, and you’d have to wonder if the team will have plans in the future to add more DSL teams to the mix. That has been suggested as a strategy that could give teams an edge — signing a ton of young, highly projectable players, giving them playing time with multiple teams, and hoping that equals more breakouts and more developing talent in the lower levels.
This is obviously early in the process, and we’ll update more when more details are available. I’ll also have more from Bob Nutting’s meeting with the media today at Pirate City.