A new report from Mother Jones, an independent news organization, featuring investigative and breaking news reporting on politics, the environment, human rights, and culture, published on Monday morning takes a look at Major League Baseball’s practices in the Dominican Republic.
The report, by Ian Gordon, focuses on the 2011 death of Nationals prospect Yewri Guillen.
Guillen, a promising 18-year-old infielder, died of what the Nationals originally called bacterial meningitis. But when MLB investigated the situation, they released a statement saying the Guillen had died of an infection in the brain as a result of an aggressive sinus infection.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in April of 2011 shortly after Guillen’s death. “Yewri Guillen was one of our bright, young Dominican prospects… We feel terrible about it and it’s something that should never happen to anybody, but specifically not an 18-year-old person.”
“Obviously this is a terrible tragedy,” Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih said at that time. “I’d like to really applaud the efforts of our medical training staff down south who identified it and got him treatment as soon as possible… It’s really a very terrible thing and very unfortunate. Fortunately, going forward, it’s a very rare thing. As unfortunate as it is, I know everything was done to the letter by our medical and training staff to prevent any further catastrophe.
“We’re investigating right now what we can do in the future to deal with a situation like this but, again, it’s very rare and extremely unusual. There’s really no standard for how to go about dealing with this.”
Gordon takes an in-depth look at the case, along with other operations in the Dominican Republic, and how Guillen went from having headaches to passing away. He includes details from Guillen’s family about the contract they signed with the Nationals after Guillen’s passing that ensured them receipt their son’s signing bonus but also stated that they would not sue the organization.
At the time of Guillen’s death, the Nationals said the Lerner Family took care of all funeral costs and the Nationals players sent a donation to Guillen’s family.
When MLB completed its investigation into the matter roughly six weeks later, they absolved the Nationals of any wrongdoing in the matter saying the organization “took the proper steps to ensure that Guillen’s medical care was handled appropriately and that the proper protocols were followed to prevent the spread of meningitis when that infection was suspected as the cause of Guillen’s illness.”
“Following Mr. Guillen’s passing, the Medical Advisory Committee met and recommended that all Dominican Republic Academy personnel, including players and clubhouse staff, be offered a meningitis vaccination, even though it was determined that meningitis did not cause Guillen’s illness,” the release said. “As a result, all players and club personnel that stay overnight at all Club Academies in the Dominican Republic have had a meningitis vaccination administered to them.”
The vaccination is one that is required by many colleges and universities in the U.S. before students enroll for their freshman year.
“After consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our committee determined that is in the best interest of all players and staff to institute a vaccination program for meningitis at all of the MLB Club Academies across the Dominican Republic,” said MLB medical director Dr. Gary Green in the release. “The health and safety of all personnel is a top priority for Major League Baseball and although meningitis was not the cause in this case, we believe that a vaccination program may prevent future cases of this illness.”