Yewri Guillen, an 18-year-old shortstop in the Nationals Dominican Republic academy in Boca Chica, died Thursday morning of bacterial meningitis, roughly four days after he began exhibiting symptoms of infection.
“It’s a tragic situation,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “Yewri Guillen was one of our bright, young Dominican prospects… We feel terrible about it and it’s something that should never happen to anybody, but specifically not an 18-year-old person.”
The Nationals observed a moment of silence prior to their game with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night in Guillen’s honor. Guillen was one of 16 international prospects the Nationals agreed to terms with this past February.
According to Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih, Guillen began exhibiting symptoms of an altered mental state, along with headaches, around April 10 and was then evaluated and transported to a medical facility in the Dominican Republic.
“With these kinds of things,” Douoguih said, “it’s very nebulous to start and then all of a sudden, very rapidly, it degenerates.”
Fausto Severeno, the administrator of the Nationals’ Dominican academy, was with Guillen’s family from the time he was admitted to the hospital for care and traveled with the body back to his hometown, Rizzo said. The Nationals’ entire Dominican operation, including Johnny Dipuglia, the director of Latin American operations, are expected to be in attendance at Guillen’s funeral on Saturday.
Bacterial meningitis is extremely contagious — Douoguih said Guillen could have contracted it through something as simple as someone sneezing in his presence — and the mortality rate is very high, even with treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, even with early detection and proper antibiotics, the mortality rate hovers above 15 percent.
The Nationals have taken precautions to ensure that the disease has not spread to others in their academy, administering antibiotics to anyone who may have come in contact with Guillen in the past two weeks, but are unsure as to how many people that may encompass. There are around 30 players currently enrolled in the academy.
“Obviously this is a terrible tragedy,” Douoguih said. “I’d like to really applaud the efforts of our medical training staff down south who identified it and got him treatment as soon as possible… It’s really a very terrible thing and very unfortunate. Fortunately, going forward, it’s a very rare thing. As unfortunate as it is, I know everything was done to the letter by our medical and training staff to prevent any further catastrophe.
“We’re investigating right now what we can do in the future to deal with a situation like this but, again, it’s very rare and extremely unusual. There’s really no standard for how to go about dealing with this.”
Guillen’s death is the latest blow to the Nationals Dominican operation, which is still attempting to recover from the Esmailyn Gonzalez scandal that cost former general manager Jim Bowden and several other members of the organization their jobs in 2009.
The Lerner family, the Nationals’ principal owners, are taking care of any funeral expenses that Guillen’s family may incur and the Nationals’ major league players are also sending a donation, collected Friday afternoon, to Guillen’s family.