New facility has long-term goals in mind
Mirrors Pirate City to ease prospects' transition through system
EL TORO, Dominican Republic -- The Pirates' new Latin American headquarters has a façade that sharply resembles PNC Park and a design and functionality that mirrors every Minor League level in between here and there.
That was all a part of a plan by the organization to establish continuity. Every detail in this complex was done with a purpose.
The Pirates' trademark "P" adorns each door, every trash can, and each placard for the different rooms. In fact, when the building team determined that it would not be possible to find tiles in the precise Pirates' yellow color, it scratched plans to put a tiled "P" in the bathroom. It wouldn't have been exact if it had.
"Everything is the same," Trevor Gooby, the senior director of Florida and Dominican operations, said as he toured visitors around the complex. "That was the whole point, to keep these guys on a consistent path."
With the ability to start from scratch, the Pirates' management team, along with Dennis DaPra, the general manager of PNC Park, spent countless hours meeting to finalize all the meticulous details. One of the primary goals of this complex is to introduce the young Dominican players to the Pirates' system of development, a system that will remain the same at every level in the organization.
Management believes that having the facility mirror Pirate City, where the Pirates hold Spring Training and house Gulf Coast League players, and PNC Park in so many ways would ease the transition from level to level. And everyone now collectively agrees that this complex has that sort of functionality.
"This is where we're introducing them to Pirates baseball," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We want them to understand what it means to be a Pirate."
As compared to their previous complex, which sat along the street of a bustling urban area, the Pirates' new complex sits nestled off the main road. The location was by design, with the intention being that fields away from the street will limit distractions for players.
Mango trees and two lagoons which were on the 46 acres of property have been left alone as a sign of respect for the land.
The amenities in the complex are similar to those at Pirate City. There are game rooms with ping pong tables, pool tables and video games. Down the hall there are classrooms, which will be extensively utilized. All players will be required to take English classes and will also take various academic classes so that they can pass their high school equivalency test.
"We would be doing a disservice to the country and a disservice to these young men if we didn't do everything we could while they were here to give them the type of education that will allow them to have a career and something to fall back on if baseball playing doesn't work out for them," president Frank Coonelly said.
Players will attend classes three to four days a week, for three to four hours at a time. In contrast, the Pirates' old Dominican complex had no space for such classrooms.
The on-site dining facility will allow the Pirates to monitor the nutrition of its players. The dorm rooms, which will hold anywhere from two to four in a room, are luxurious compared to the cell-like bedrooms lined with bunk beds in the team's old facility.
The clubhouse stands adjacent to the dormitories and contains a separate clubhouse for players and coaches. The clubhouse lockers have been sent down from the Pirates' Spring Training facility. So, too, have the uniforms.
Coaches now have their own video room, while players have their own weight room. An outdoor conditioning area allows for an additional space for core and agility work.
Just outside the clubhouse is a covered batting cage area with four tunnels. Behind it stands six mounds on which pitchers can throw their bullpen sessions. There are two full fields, one half field -- which can be expanded in the future -- and a grassy field used for conditioning work.
Unlike the previous complex, everything needed both on and off the field is on site.
"The development that those guys could make in the past just because of the structure in a lot more antiquated place, the only progress made was made [once they got] to the States," said Rene Gayo, the Pirates' director of Latin American scouting.
"Now that process can be made here. It's a completely 180 degree turn for development. Now that development can start here."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.