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PROBEIS IS NOT BEING GIVEN PROMISED MONEY
Writer Beatriz Pereyra of Mexico City's Proceso magazine recently produced a special report detailing the travails undergone with a federal program designed to develop Mexican baseball at the grassroots level, particularly in prospect development. The largest problem appears to be funding. A translated version of Pereyra's report follows:
Everything indicates that for the
second time, the program for the Promotion and Development of Baseball
Mexico (Probeis), whose funds are managed by the Secretary of Public
(SEP), will not be fully implemented. Édgar González, director of that
assures that the pandemic paralyzed everything and although he strives
alliances, prepare plans and enable sports centers to apply the 290
pesos (US$12.8 million) assigned for this fiscal year, the authorities
that "when it is the right time, they will speak to me. There is
left but to wait."
The Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed Probeis, which to date has not spent even one of the 290 million pesos assigned for 2020, so for the second consecutive year it will have a shortage of resources.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also did not authorize the creation of a trust so that public money can be exercised by this means and not through the SEP Senior Office.
“This year we have not exercised anything,” González says. “The SEP has made it difficult to get the money out and now, with the coronavirus, it is more complicated. No bids have been made. I wanted to get ahead in the administrative area so that once we return to work we will use the money. They have not wanted to do them (the bidding rules) and that causes me a lot of problems because when the confinement ends, I will have three months to operate.
“There is no way I will spend 290 million pesos in that time. Then they will tell me that the only way is through direct adjudication. I do not want to make direct awards, but it is the only thing that will be possible,” regrets González.
The difficulties to operate the program began since the director of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport (CONADE), Ana Gabriela Guevara, refused to distribute Probeis resources in 2019.
For this year, when he was willing, the president did not want the money to reach this dependency that the SEP pointed out because he detected acts of corruption that in just the first half of 2019 left a loss of 50.8 million pesos (US$2.2 million).
For months, González tried to persuade López Obrador of the need to create a public trust to streamline the Probeis operation. Even the Legal Department of the Presidency designed the document –of which Proceso has a copy– which also considered the marching and boxing commissions, sports that operate with programs outside of CONADE.
However, López Obrador did not authorize it. During his campaign, he promoted the eradication of public trusts, considering them opaque and nests of corruption. With the presidential decree to extinguish those that do not have an organic structure and, later, with the reform initiative that Morena promoted in the Chamber of Deputies to eliminate 44 others, it became clear to González that Probeis will not operate with this scheme.
“He (López Obrador) does not know that with a trust, it is the easiest way to operate, but he put the trusts in the balance and if he was going to remove them all, he would not even create one for Probeis. I am waiting for him to tell me what I have to do. 'The pandemic has been the priority' is what they told me when I asked for a meeting.
“He told me that when the time is right, he will speak to me to tell me how I am going to operate. There is nothing left but to wait. I understand the president because there have been much mismanagement of trusts, but we are left with no concrete way to operate. We have to ask Hector Garza (SEP head) for favors,” says González resignedly.
To build four baseball schools during 2019, Probeis signed agreements with Campeche, Jalisco, Quintana Roo and Guanajuato. They also did it with Hermosillo, where the federal government bought Estadio Héctor Espino for 511.7 million pesos (US$22.5 million) with resources from the Banobras National Infrastructure Fund public trust. The renovations in this property began this year, but were interrupted by the quarantine.
González has not only found that the bidding processes take up to four months before the bidding rules are available on the CompraNet portal, but once the SEP sends the money to the states, Probeis does not have the personnel to review and follow up on the work.
“When the money reaches the state,” González explains, “it is theirs and they do with it what they want. You have to be aware and it is difficult to follow up. The only way to do it is with the SEP, with agreements and tenders. Thus everything is limited. What you want to do is one thing, what you can is another. I get it: They want people to not take advantage of the budget but at the same time, the goals cannot be achieved.”
Other states such as Yucatan and Tabasco received federal resources of 11 million pesos each (US$485,000), but they returned the money to the Treasury of the Federation because it arrived almost at the end of last year, when it was already impossible to carry out the work.
Around 100 people work at Probeis, of which only six are hired by the SEP. One of them is González, who as a public servant since January 2020 had earned a net salary of 88,550 pesos (US$3,900) over five-plus months. The rest of the employees charge by the job and fees. In March, when confinement began due to the pandemic, they had not even received the payment corresponding to the first quarter of the year.
Eighteen months after Probeis started, González boasted the four aforementioned schools, whose first phase of construction has already concluded. They lack details such as paint, finishes and sports equipment.
The official hopes to get them started this year. The works that had been stopped by the pandemic resumed just last month. He hopes that soon the children and young people will be able to train in the afternoons after doing their homework on the premises, an essential requirement to practice baseball in the Probeis program.
Thus, it also expects that the projects of the T1-level schools (equipped with dormitories), whose works are scheduled for Mexico City and Monterrey, will start this year. In the second case, he is already in talks with the Governor of Nuevo León to contribute 60 million pesos (US$2.6 million). Probeis will put another 35 million pesos (US$1.5 million). This will be the largest academy in the country, with a capacity for 200 players.
“Let's see what can be rescued from that.” says González. “The plan is also to start the construction of another small school in Mexicali, finish the one in Hermosillo and start the other four that I told you about, with 11-15 million pesos (US$485,000-660,000) invested in each one.
“I met with the mayor of Azcapotzalco, Vidal Llerenas, and there is a place in a sports hall that has a giant space for a school. He is ready and willing to help us with the terrain. There is another option in Gustavo A. Madero. We are waiting for Claudia Sheinbaum to tell us in which of the two,” he says.
In addition, Probeis plans to build other schools in Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta and in La Paz or Los Cabos; that is, in tourist complexes where tournaments and events such as showcases can be held so more scouts can come to see the prospects.
In order not to spend building schools in Oaxaca and Mazatlán, where the owners of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros (Alfredo Harp Helu) and the Yucatan Leones (the Arellano brothers) have their academies, González asked them to allow him put Probeis players to train there in exchange for a monthly payment.
“I already had talks with them and we are working on it,” González explains. “We pay for the boys we have, they carry out the project, we lower costs for them and we do not spend on buildings. That is also planned for this year. The best thing would be for them to say that they want it and that they support me.”
To carry out the Prospect League in Guadalajara in 2019, Probeis asked the 16 clubs of the Mexican League to lend to their best players. From there, he considers that he has already built a bridge with them to work together.
So far, in its talent screening program, Probeis has evaluated 6,600 children. With the information gathered, González is creating a database in which the strengths and weaknesses of Mexican children and youth can be consulted.
The results show that although, for example, arm strength is at a high level, in other skills, such as running speed, they are below average. Also, physical preparation is poor. That, he says, could explain why Mexico exports so many pitchers and not position players to the Major Leagues.
The idea is to store the data of the leads in an application in which the progress in their performance will be updated. That information will be available for scouts to follow up on. González adds that he will create a collegiate league in the country so that players can obtain scholarships at universities in Mexico and the United States.
González is told that the detection of talents to be sold as prospects to the major league clubs is in direct competition with the LMB teams, which could generate conflicts.
The director of Probeis clarifies that in the Mexican League, they do not see it that way, that both parties are aware that it costs a lot to develop players and that the money obtained from the sale does not justify the investment.
“The theme is to develop together. I am in talks with MLB and the LMB so that every child who plays baseball in Mexico from now on also attends high school and that the teams pay them,” he adds.
Because he is the son of David González, owner of the González Academy in Tijuana, where they develop players to sell them to the MLB, and brother of major league player Adrián González, Édgar is said to have a conflict of interest. In the academy, his father does the same as the director of Probeis.
Q: You say that there are no more frictions with the LMB, but I suppose that you are no stranger to the comments that Probeis will take prospects from the LMB teams. That has generated annoyances.
A: “I don't want to fight with them. I want them to do their best because that way, there will be more children playing baseball. I already presented a project on how to help them generate money. It is not that Probeis will give them money, but that the government supports them to generate it.
“I told them (the team owners) that if there are 300 prospects, they keep the best 150 and the others are mine, so they train some and I train others. I want the players to have opportunities. What matters to me is that those who sign are trained well and given school.”
Q. What would you say about the comments indicating that you'll take advantage of Probeis to sign prospects that you will actually send to the González Academy so that your father can sell them to MLB?
A. “I've heard it. I'm not worried because that's not happening. I don't even get into the academy. As I have said, the academy is losing money. Let them show me how many and whom I scouted with Probeis and took them to the González Academy.”
Q. It is also pointed out that you intend to do business with the signing of baseball players for Major Leagues by charging a commission for providing the service of representation of players. Are you going to make money from that?
A. “Not at all. You try, yes, but I don't. This money is public to continue operating, even if the government changes. I don't think it's wrong for Probeis to get 30% of the signing bonus, as the LMB teams do. The player needs that because they don't even know how much they are worth and so they don't get fooled.”
Other projects that were pending prior to the Covid-19 pandemic are the physical preparation and food consultancies that Probeis will offer to players who are already signed with MLB teams to develop faster in the Minor Leagues.
They also could not send the 36 Mexican coaches who were selected in the 12 clinics that were held to train with MLB teams.
“The level of the coaching is very low,” Gonzáles says. “They have no technical knowledge of how the body works, how it should be trained. There are no schools where coaches are taught; they do what they can with what they know.
“They do not have enough sports equipment and there is no money for those to dedicate themselves professionally to that. That is very important. Mexico is far behind in this regard.”