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Angels to open facility in Dominican Republic

SEATTLE -- A return to prominence in Latin America has been a long, uphill climb for the Angels since 2009, when a Major League Baseball investigation basically kept them inactive for a couple of years.

But on Wednesday, the first of May, they'll take a big step forward in the most fruitful of all Latin American nations -- the Dominican Republic.

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That's when the Angels will finally move out of their isolated, outdated facility in San Pedro and into a new one in the more-centralized Boca Chica area, where about 20 other teams set up shop in hopes of plucking some of the best talent in this baseball-crazed island.

Asked to describe the difference between the facility they utilized since the 1980s and the new one, assistant general manager Scott Servais said: "It's probably a 99-percent upgrade. In a scale of 1 to 100, we were at the bottom. And if we were a 10 before, this probably puts us up in the 75 to 80 range."

The new facility, essentially attached to that of the Mets and Phillies, is bigger and more modern. More importantly, it's situated in a much more prominent location 20 miles east of Santo Domingo and will put the Angels in the heart of player movement in the Dominican, making it easier to develop players, host tryouts, scout talent and perhaps even lure teenagers.

"It gives us a chance to compete with everybody else down there," said Servais, who oversees scouting and player development.

"One of the biggest things about the location is the accessibility and the geographic closeness to a lot of the other teams," said Carlos Gomez, hired over the offseason to run international scouting. "Before, you're playing in the San Pedro division, and you face the Brewers, the Tigers, the Braves -- over and over and over. Now, we have many more opponents. So I think the kids will get more exposure to different players, and on top of that, for a scouting stake, we're just more in the central hub of most of the player movement occurs. So, it's a big advantage."

For a while, the Angels were a force in Latin America, signing the likes of Erick Aybar, Kendrys Morales, Francisco Rodriguez and Ervin Santana. But in June 2009, former scouting director Clay Daniel was dismissed by former GM Tony Reagins over reported concerns that his scouts were skimming bonuses. And with that, the Angels essentially went dark in Latin America until Marc Russo began rebuilding in November 2010.

The Angels ranked 28th in estimated international amateur spending in 2010 ($617,000) and 24th in 2011 ($1.35 million), then allocated about the same in 2012. But things may finally be looking up.

"We have to ramp it up down there, and this will be the first step in moving that in the right direction," Servais said. "It'll be a real operation. We'll have a full-blown weight room, room to house our staff there, the meals and everything else will be real upgraded. This will really help."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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