I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Allen Rowin, Player Development Coordinator for the Astros, to talk about his baby -- the Astros Academy in Guerra, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. With a BA in Spanish and Political Science from UCLA and an MBA in Sports Business Management from San Diego State, Rowin was a natural to spearhead the planning, construction and ongoing operations of the Academy which was completed in 2010.
Rowin speaks with obvious pride about the complex which was two years in the planning and construction stages before becoming a reality. Having a facility complete with dorms, computer lab and classrooms helps the Astros become more competitive in player development in the Dominican. "You see the benefits of that when you have the players on site. You can do extra work. You can do early work. You can do English classes. You can do other classes that help them with their interpersonal skills ... You have a more captive audience ... more readily available for instruction," according to Rowin.
And the complex is in use most of the year. Rowin described a dizzying number of player moves in and out of the complex before the Dominican Summer League season as DSL players, players destined for full season teams in the U.S., and players destined for short season teams in the U.S. all operate on different schedules in January through March with the latter two groups headed to the U.S. for regular Spring Training or Extended Spring Training, respectively.
The complex is closed for the better part of April until the DSL team starts training late in the month for games starting in June and going through August. After being closed in September, the Dominican Instructional League starts in October and runs parallel with the Fall Instructional League in Florida and operates in much the same vein. The Dominican Instructional League features DSL prospects plus many of the Latin players who have played in the U.S. for a year or so and continues through the early part of December before the complex shuts down for the holidays.
Then in January, it starts all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Rowin described it as Baseball 365. "You're always looking at the next program that's going to start and planning for what's going to happen."
I asked Rowin about a typical day for a player during the DSL season. The day starts early with breakfast at 6:30, early work at 7:00, and on the field by around 8:30. Depending on whether there is a scheduled game with another DSL team or just a split squad game, they will start playing from around 10:00 to 11:00 in time to finish and get off the field by no later than 1:00 or 2:00 in order to avoid the worst of the heat and the sun. According to Rowin, getting enough nutrition in the bodies of 16 to 18 year old athletes is enough of a challenge as it is without factoring in playing in the tropical heat of the day.
And Rowin worries about nutrition and language skills and facilities and maintenance and personnel because the Academy is truly his baby. He oversees the operations of the complex in addition to his everyday duties handling the minutiae of player development and minor league rosters. It is a lot of work, but it is obviously a labor of love.