In the upcoming issue of Mother Jones, the magazine will publish a story titled “Inside Major League Baseball’s Dominican Sweatshop System” about issues surrounding Dominican baseball academies run by major league teams, highlighting the talent scouting industry and health care system for players. One of the cases referenced in the story is that of Yewri Guillen, the Nationals’ 18-year old budding prospect who fell sick while at the team’s Dominican academy in early April 2011 and later died of an aggressive sinus infection that was misdiagnosed.
The main points of the story echo what was originally reported in the Post in April 2011. The Post report detailed when Guillen got sick; how his contract had not yet been approved by Major League Baseball and thus precluded him from using its health insurance at the first clinic his family took him to; and the changes in medical protocol sparked at academies by his death.
After the Post story was published, Major League Baseball released a statement saying the Nationals took the proper medical procedures concerning Guillen and needed steps to prevent the spread of meningitis among other players. The Post reported that doctors in the Dominican, not Nationals officials, originally ruled that Guillen died of bacterial meningitis. The Nationals paid for Guillen’s medical bills in the Santo Domingo clinic where he was treated and covered his funeral and burial expenses.
According to the Mother Jones story, there were no board-certified athletic trainers or doctors at hand in the Nationals’ academy to treat him. They found that 21 of 30 major league teams, including the Nationals, don’t employ certified trainers at the Dominican academies. The story will also state that the Nationals didn’t pay Guillen’s signing bonus or insurance money until his family signed a release waiving their right to sue the team.
Guillen’s mother, Sandra Perdomo, told the Post in telephone interview from the Dominican Republic on Sunday that she did indeed sign paperwork that promised the family wouldn’t sue the Nationals. She said she was presented papers after Guillen’s death by Fausto Severino, the coordinator of the Nationals’ Dominican academy, and asked to sign them.
According to Perdomo, she was told that she needed to sign them in order to receive her son’s $30,000 signing bonus. She didn’t read the paperwork, assuming that’s all the documents were for. She and her husband checked the paperwork three days later and discovered that they contained a clause that promised they wouldn’t sue the Nationals, she said.
“I could have investigated it,” said Perdomo, who didn’t sound remorseful when talking Sunday. “But I wanted to leave it like that. Why continue with it? That’s what I told my husband. Nothing that we do would have brought him back.”
A Nationals spokesman chose not to comment Sunday.
Perdomo said her family is doing well and at peace but, to her, the loss of her son still lingers. MLB had not officially approved his contract, which meant his health insurance policy, standard in every player’s contract, had not yet kicked in. (There had been a misunderstanding about Guillen’s middle name when the Nationals tried to sign him in 2010 and that sparked another investigation when he agreed to terms in Feb. 2011.)
Guillen was sent home to Nigua, about 90 minutes west of the academy, after he felt a headache and fever, symptoms thought to be the flu. Perdomo acknowledged that her son’s contract had not been approved and prevented his health insurance from being used. The family couldn’t afford health care at the first clinic they visited in Santo Domingo. She still wonders why her son was sent home to her sick.
“In reality, I wanted to find out really what happened,” she said. “And I was bothered by it. The team because the kid got sick and they sent him home like that. That headache. That’s what bothered me about it, that they sent him to me like that. And that they didn’t send him to a doctor.”
Perdomo said she and her husband, however, aren’t interested in pursing the issue. They understand that they signed away their right to sue and wanted to move on. “I left it all in the hands of God,” she said.
“It’s hard because [Guillen’s death is] something that I’ll never recover from,” she added in Spanish. “And I think about it daily. I’m trying to keep going.”