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SDSU Sports MBA students visited a school in the Dominican Republic this summer. SDSU Sports MBA students visited a school in the Dominican Republic this summer.

SDSU Students See How MLB Affects Dominicans

This story was first published in the San Diego Union-Tribune on July 1, 2010.
By Greg Moore (Special to the San Diego Union-Tribune)

During San Diego State’s sports MBA program’s recent nine-day trip to the Dominican Republic, the theme of long-term social responsibility was everywhere. The 33 students visited the San Diego Padres’ baseball academy in Najayo, as well as other major league baseball operations around the island, to gain firsthand knowledge about the socioeconomic factors that influence MLB’s activities in the country.

“The difference my classmates, the Padres and MLB can make is only meaningful if it’s sustainable,” said sports MBA student Emily Nakayama. “It won’t have an impact if it only happens once.”

San Diego Padres—leaders in community outreach

To that end, the Padres have been a leader. Last year the team hired SDSU sports MBA alumna Verónica Nogueira to work as the team’s community relations coordinator in the Dominican Republic.

“The Padres launched the Dominican Republic Community Outreach Program in 2008 in connection with the construction of the team’s new state-of-the-art baseball facility in Najayo,” Nogueira said.

“The main goals of the program are to improve the health and well-being of the people in the Dominican Republic, to improve the public education system and to encourage the youth to live a healthy and active lifestyle. The team will continue to support the current development programs and establish new ones, because the Padres believe it is the right thing to do.”

Baseball is the future

Since many children in the Dominican see baseball as the only way off the island, they play every day, often at the expense of their education, health and development. SDSU sports MBA students worked with the Padres, MLB and MLB partners to tackle many socio-economic issues during their trip and even pitched possible solutions to former Padres CEO Sandy Alderson, Commissioner Bud Selig’s point man on the island nation.

“This wasn’t a sightseeing field trip; it was an opportunity for our sports-focused MBA students to assess the footprint created by MLB in the D.R. and create an immediate action plan involving university support to address the footprint,” said program director Scott Minto, who instituted the Dominican Republic trip into the program’s curriculum.

“As a group, we looked at policies and programs that MLB, its teams and SDSU could put in place that could mobilize our colleagues at home and throughout the country, as well as MLB’s fans nationwide, to ensure that baseball’s impact on the people of the D.R. is a positive one.”

“My biggest take-away is that there was not just one problem or set of people that need help,” said student Aileen Berran. “Those athletes whose dreams are crushed and do not make it to the big leagues may need the most help and guidance.”

SDSU students helping Najayo community

“We can actually do something here,” Alderson said. “This is not an academic exercise; this can actually translate into something tangible.”

Currently, the students have raised more than $5,000 and will continue to raise funds that will go toward helping the Najayo community.

Greg Moore is a member of the SDSU sports MBA class of 2011. He can be reached at moore32@rohan.sdsu.edu