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International Pastime: Politics Limiting Venezuelan Players?

May 22, 2007 – 2:28 PM
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Eamonn Brennan

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International Pastime will look at baseball's influence outside the U.S.

Most people with even a passing interest in international politics are aware of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's extremely anti-American attitudes. What's probably less well known -- even within the baseball community -- is how Chavez's radical stances are affecting the influx of Venezuelan players into Major League Baseball.

Not the least of those concerns is a potential ban on interaction between the MLB and Venezuelan players. Naturally, that is not something either players or the Major Leagues are interested in, so the league is fighting back:
The future of the Venezuelan market is of great importance to major league franchises because the country is such a cheap yet fertile source of talent. A record 51 Venezuelans began this season in the major leagues, yet almost half the U.S. clubs that once had training academies in the country have abandoned them in recent years, driven away by rampant crime and political instability.

The overall situation has become serious enough that Major League Baseball sent high-ranking representatives to Venezuela in March to meet with members of that country's baseball federation.

This not only hurts the ability of MLB to recruit overseas, it also robs dozens of Venezuelan prospects from improving their lots in life and, by way of financial osmosis, their communities and home countries. Here's hoping Chavez lives up to his current promise that he won't interfere with the nation's baseball prospects. Otherwise, all sides lose in the name of ideological political disagreement, and that's just no fun, now is it?

Filed under: Sports