Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Recruiting Foreign Minor League Baseball Players

The number of foreign-born players in baseball's minor leagues has significantly increased according to the Wall Street Journal. While baseball has historically had strong representation at the major league level from various countries, in the past MLB teams had to develop their foreign talent at overseas training grounds in the Dominican Republic, Australia and elsewhere. Beginning in 2007, the "Creating Opportunities for Minor League Professionals, Entertainers and Teams Act" has changed the immigration landscape to allow for easier access to foreign talent at the minor league level. Specifically, the Act now allows minor league teams to recruit foreign players using the P-1 visa. Previously, minor league teams were restricted to use the H-2B visa, which has limited availability and is restricted to seasonal employment. In contrast, P-1 athletes can be employed in the United States for longer durations, and players affiliated with major league teams are all-but guaranteed the visa.

Recent changes in U.S. immigration law and growing competition in baseball for raw talent have allowed the minor-league farm system to flourish with imported players. It has been a home run for globalization, but bad news for U.S.-born players, who suddenly have much more competition. Across the minor and major leagues, the total number of foreign-born players is growing fast, to almost 3,500 of the 8,532 players under contract this summer, from 2,964 three years ago.

Many of the foreign players hail from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. As noted above, one consequence is that U.S.-born players will face greater competition in making it to the major league level.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Consular Processing: A Learning Experience for the Sacramento Kings' Draft Pick Omri Casspi

The Sacramento Bee reports on the experience of Omri Casspi, the 23rd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, in acquiring a P-1 visa sponsored by his newest employer, the Sacramento Kings.

Obtaining a visa to play in the United States remains a major irritant for the non-Americans in the league. Most of the time the NBA teams turn their attorneys loose on the immigration matter. But as Omri Casspi is learning - as did Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu back in the day - the process is not hassle-free. Multiple time-consuming meetings at the U.S. Embassy remain common. In Casspi's case, the Kings rookie appeared for a 7:30 a.m., appointment on Tuesday and was required to return again Wednesday to finalize the paperwork. He sounded relieved to have the matter resolved. "Done, over," he said afterward. "I'm ready to go."

Casspi, while obscure in the United States, is well known in his native Israel as he starred for the country's best basketball team (Maccabi Tel Aviv) prior to joining the Kings. Even star basketball players are not immune from the vagaries of the U.S. Department of State's visa procedures.