CHICAGO -- When Sammy Sosa played baseball growing up in the Dominican Republic, his primary practice field had a rocky infield and the outfield grass was maintained by goats. Now, Cubs players Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano say the team's complex is better than average, despite criticism in a recent magazine article.
A story in Time magazine's July 26 issue discussing baseball in the Dominican said several Major League teams have built new academies on the island. The San Diego Padres, for example, spent $8 million on a place that, according to Time, "feels like a resort."
However, the Cubs' complex did not get a favorable review. According to the story, the reporter saw 10 prospects "piled into a room that at best could comfortably fit two or three." There were four bunk beds squeezed into the space and two players were sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The Cubs facility, like the others, has a dorm for the players.
Marmol, who works out at the complex in the offseason, disagreed, saying the Cubs facility was a major improvement.
"Now, it's fantastic, beautiful," Marmol said. "Now, there are two fields and nice places to stay. I wish it was like that when I was younger."
The Time magazine writer reportedly showed a photo of the room to Sandy Alderson, whom Major League Baseball has hired to improve conditions and institute rules in the Dominican.
Alderson told Time the conditions were "not acceptable," but the story says Alderson also "later insisted that not all 10 prospects actually lived in that room and that players sometimes sleep on the floor because it's cooler."
Alderson contacted Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita, who said the story did not accurately portray what was going on at the complex at the time of the writer's visit. Fleita said players were sharing a room because maids were cleaning the other rooms and that the mattress was on the floor because a player had a bad back and it was more comfortable to sleep that way.
No one from the magazine contacted Fleita or Cubs general manager Jim Hendry or any of the Dominican players on the Major League team about the complex.
"It was very unfair and very unprofessional," Fleita said.
"I've been down there and we've housed and fed up to 50 to 60 players at a time," Hendry said Sunday. "We certainly feel like our whole situation down there is well above average. It's certainly good enough for our Major League players to go in there and help in the offseason when they're home.
"We have such a good relationship with Soriano and [Aramis] Ramirez and Marmol that if they felt there were any glaring deficiencies, they would've come to me," he said.
Hendry also said the Cubs' prolonged sale process, finally completed last October, resulted in fewer upgrades at the Dominican complex. The new owners, the Ricketts family, have visited the team's setup and there are plans to build a new complex.
Soriano was at the Cubs' Dominican facility five days a week last winter to rehab his knee and compared the center to a good Minor League complex.
"It's not like the big leagues -- it's like a Minor League complex in the United States," Soriano said. "They have rooms for the kids, a good kitchen, good food. The field is OK. For me, what I see, there's nothing bad."
Cubs rookie shortstop Starlin Castro has spent quite a bit of time there and said the food was good and the dorms were cleaned every day.
Apparently, the Time reporter was on the grounds without the Cubs' knowledge.
"For someone to not follow the policy of Major League Baseball to be credentialed or go through the right channels and then to come back without ever talking to the general manager or Major League players who visit there regularly is inexcusable journalism for me," Hendry said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.