The Tampa Bay Rays and the city of Marília, Brazil, have announced a partnership that will include construction of a training facility beginning in the first quarter of 2009. It will be the first baseball academy run by a Major League organization in Brazil.
The academy will be constructed jointly by the local and federal governments, and will consist of two full playing fields, two diamonds for youth teams, and dormitories, which will accommodate up to 40 players. Adriano de Souza, who was hired in 2008 to scout Brazil for the Rays, will coordinate the academy.
As part of the partnership between the municipal government of Marília and the Tampa Bay organization, the Rays will be scouting for baseball talent in Brazil, a country of 200 million. The Rays will also introduce baseball to groups between 7 and 14 years of age in the Marília area. The city of Marília has a population of 250,000 and is located 230 miles northwest of São Paulo.
Marília resident Edno de Souza was instrumental in bringing together Rays Special Assistant for Baseball Operations Andres Reiner and Brazilian government officials including Marília Mayor Mario Bulgarelli and Vice Mayor Ticiano Toffoli. The year-long discussions, which resulted in an agreement concerning the financing and operation of the academy, also included Brazil Minister of Sports Orlando Silva, São Paolo State Deputy Sergio Nechar and former Brazil track star Jose Luiz Barbosa.
Baseball, although overshadowed by soccer and track-and-field in Brazil, is widely played in the southern part of the country where the academy will be located. There are approximately one dozen Brazilians currently in the Minor League systems of Major League Baseball. No Brazilian has ever made it to the Major Leagues, although Jose Pett, a pitcher signed by the Toronto organization in 1992, reached as high as Triple-A.