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Sports

Ronald Guzman, Oscar Taveras, and the Hard Life of an Agent

Baseball agent Brian Mejia specializes in representing young Dominican players, and the past month has been a harrowing experience for him.
November 26, 2014, 9:00pm

On early Tuesday morning, baseball agent Brian Mejia received a text message from a friend in the Dominican Republic informing him that Texas Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman had been involved in a car accident near his home in La Vega.

Weary eyed, Mejia continued reading the text until he reached the point where he learned that Guzman, one of his clients, was unharmed. But Mejia knew that the task at hand would be to sort out the events of the evening as Guzman was being held in a local police precinct until a thorough investigation could be finished, or until Guzman could pay the $13,500 bond.

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Mejia put down the phone and then looked to the sky.

"Why is this happening right now?" he wondered.

Read More: Oscar Taveras and the Perils Facing Latin American Baseball Players

Tuesday's text came almost exactly a month from when Mejia received a text from another friend in the Dominican, telling him on October 26 that his client Oscar Taveras had died in a car accident near Sosua. The two situations bore an eery resemblance, although of course, one accident resulted in the death of one of his clients and his client's girlfriend.

But it further reinforced to Mejia the somewhat distressing nature of his job. Mejia and his partner Ulises Cabrera—two well liked and respected agents—have built their representation business by catering to young Dominican prospects, players who are more in danger of meeting a tragic death than anyone else in baseball.

Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

"In this case it's just a freak thing that I represent both guys, and they're both ballplayers, and they're both prospects and were big names," Mejia said. "But it can happen to anybody. In the case of Oscar it was more tragic and there was more involved. But the nature of how life is down there, you just have to know where you're at and you can't take anything on the street for granted."

For Mejia, there was a sense of relief that Guzman had not been hurt in the accident, although he knew there was more work to be done until his client was cleared of all charges. There were still lawyers to hire, and the Dominican legal system to sort through. Mejia also expects the family of the dead motorbiker to hire a lawyer.

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"People in La Vega know that he's signed for $3.5 million, and they think the kid has millions of dollars," Mejia, whose family is from Puerto Plata, said. "They're going to use that leverage. I'm sure there are lawyers and people involved, who unfortunately are going to try to take advantage of the situation. That's me knowing how things work in the Dominican. That's just reality, that's how it works.

Meanwhile, Guzman still sits in a police station and won't be allowed to leave the country until the situation is settled, although Mejia doesn't think his client—considered one of the Rangers' top prospects—is in danger of missing spring training.

Mejia spoke with Guzman on Tuesday morning, and the 20-year-old assured his agent that he was not at fault. Guzman said he had simply been trying to take his friend home at 1 a.m. when a motorbike rushed next to him and then tried to go in front of Guzman's Ford Explorer. But instead, the motorbike, according to Guzman's account, slammed into the SUV. Eleazar Garcia, the driver of the motorbike, died instantly. Mejia said Guzman was dressed in gym clothes and flip flops. He was not coming back from a nightclub or party.

Mejia said he and Guzman then sorted out how they would inform the team and anyone else of the news.

"He was worried," Mejia said of Guzman. "I think anytime it happens to anybody, especially when there's a death involved, there are unknowns and you're wondering what happens next. He was positive in the sense that he knew he wasn't at fault. He wasn't drinking. He was basically dropping off a friend and then going home and things happened. He just wanted me to know what was going on."

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Mejia still can't shake the memory of October 26. While in Arizona on a business trip, he was received a message from someone close to Taveras that read: "Oscar tuvo un acidente y se mato," [Oscar was in an accident and he died].

At first, Mejia didn't think anything serious had happened because Dominican slang can often mean the exaggeration of certain things. So when someone says that a person "died," they might just mean that person got a bit messed up but walked away.

But a few minutes later, Mejia got a text from Taveras's close friend and Mejia's client Carlos Martinez, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, "Bro, did you hear what happened?"

Three minutes later, Martinez sent Mejia a photo of Taveras's dead body.

"Little by little it just started to sink in," Mejia said. "It was a pretty horrible trip flying home. The following day I flew from Arizona on a red eye, and then got to Miami, got some clothes, and then flew to Puerto Plata, and that's when I realized, 'OK, this is real.'"

If there is a positive in regards to Taveras's death it's that Martinez has suddenly become more stable and focused. He no longer parties as much. He's focused on his work. He's determined to make the Cardinals starting pitching staff. He will soon begin pitching for the winter league Aguilas Cibaenas.

"I don't know how long this is going to last, but this guy he did a 180," Mejia said of Martinez. "I wouldn't say Oscar was crazy, but he didn't really always make the right decisions. I think in this case, Carlos is thinking things over before he does them. Let's put it that way. He analyzes things."

But Mejia knows that his clientele of young Dominican ballplayers can be fickle. Many think they are impervious to danger. Some think they wear Superman capes, Mejia said. He often tells his clients that they need to be more careful. Some listen. Some don't.

But ultimately, Mejia knows tragedy may be just a text message away.