By Evan Brunell
The death of a Dominican Republic prospect from bacterial meningitis has left the Nationals reeling, swearing to begin a program to ensure that each player in its organization has been inoculated from the illness, a program MLB is also considering.
Yewri Guillen passed away suddenly at the age of 18 following a bout of bacterial meningitis that stymied doctors until it was too late.
"He was a bright kid," mother Sandra Perdomo told the Washington Post. "And he had a bright future. Here, the coaches and all that saw him play said that he was going to go far. He was a great player."
Guillen, a shortstop, had his contract with Washington approved in January for a bonus of $30,000 after a previous contract was rejected over concerns about his middle name. While that contract has yet to be officially approved, Guillen was cleared to begin playing for the Dominican Summer League, which starts camp Monday. Although the contract was not yet finalized, the Nats will pay the signing bonus to his family, who was hoping Guillen could lift out of poverty.
“The kid was the only hope for that family to get out of poverty,” one Dominican source said.
Washington has also paid all of Guillen's medical expenses and GM Mike Rizzo received permission from owner Ted Lerner to handle the funeral costs as well. In addition, when Livan Hernandez heard the news, he requested donations from the team and so far has received over $6,000 from the club.
“It’s heartbreaking that an 18-year-old player not only can’t play baseball, but he’s dead,” Rizzo added. “It’s really difficult for the organization. It’s a blow to the whole organization. We’re certainly looking at things we could have done differently or done better. We’re certainly investigating that.
“I think we handled it as well as could be handled. I think we handled everything above board and first-class. These are our assets. We have to make sure these players are well taken care of. We feel that everything we did was above board and to the finest.”For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.