By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Major League Baseball (MLB) will be represented by several of its international scouts at Rio’s Baseball Escolar social project on November 1st-2nd to cast an eye over some of the city’s young baseball hopefuls. Run by Uilson Oliveira, the program gives youngsters a chance to break away from Rio’s traditional sports and test new ground in a game yet to break into the Brazilian mainstream.
As a plethora of sports, from rugby and golf to cricket, look to make an impact in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games, the MLB hopes that baseball could be the next to catch on. Oliveira’s Baseball Escolar (Baseball School), in the Zona Norte (North Zone) neighborhoods of Vila Isabel and Irajá, is giving local kids a taste of one of America’s most popular sports.
Coinciding with the World Series currently gripping sports fans in the U.S., the senior manager of International Development, Mike McCellan, will be among those visiting the school and offering experience and advice to its 43 members in a bid to push the game in Rio even further.
McCellan’s work has been further helped by the presence of two Brazilians currently making waves in the MLB, with Yan Gomes of the Cleveland Indians and Andre Rienzo from the Chicago White Sox making history earlier this season when they became the first Brazilians to play on opposing teams in an MLB game. The occasion was broadcast live on ESPN Brasil.
As the presence of some of baseball’s most influential scouts would attest, the pair’s impact on the sport doesn’t look like being a flash-in-the pan, either. Andres Reiner, one of Latin America’s biggest talent scouts, told The Rio Times; “The biggest new market nowadays is Brazil.”
“There is very little baseball there now,” Reiner added, “but if organizations want to spend a little bit of money and put academies there with high-level leagues and get people and kids to play the game, I can assure you that in ten years there will be so many players you will not have room for them all.”
Baseball Escolar could, therefore, be the next rich source of Latin American talent following Venezuela’s example, and the LA Dodgers and Seattle Sounders both now sponsor projects in Brazil.
Not wanting to be left behind, the MLB will be hosting a series of free tryouts between November 5th-8th in São Paulo and Paraná. Players between fourteen and eighteen years-old with their own kit are encouraged to see if they can make the grade.
Closely watched by members of the MLB Scouting Bureau, those selected will go on to take part in an MLB Elite Camp in February 2014 at the Yakult Training Center in São Paulo and could go on to be the next World Series stars of tomorrow.