"Beisbol" Blues

imageAfter 15 years of having a recruitment center in the country, the Seattle Mariners are packing their bags and leaving town for the Dominican Republic.

It’s the latest Major League Baseball team to abandon Venezuela (sixteen in the last decade), leaving only four MLB franchises in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL), a league dedicated to finding possible prospects for the big league up north.

Baseball (“Beisbol” in Venezuelan parlance) isn’t just our national sport, but also the gateway for many young Venezuelan men looking for a better life. But thanks to the current state of affairs between the U.S. and Venezuela, combined with declining socio-economic conditions, teams prefer to settle elsewhere.

Nicolas Maduro recently imposed a new visa policy for American visitors. Afterwards, a scout for the Houston Astros was turned away at the airport, and other teams are now reviewing their policy regarding Venezuela. As Texas Rangers assistant GM Thad Levin said to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez: “…I hope it’s not a lasting impact for Venezuela, because there are tremendous players down there.”

Still, the head of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP) Oscar Prieto Párraga isn’t too happy about this either. In his view, this decision by the central government will only make things harder for Venezuelan teams to get American players. In case you didn’t know, our winter league (just like others in the Caribbean area) also serve as a testing ground for new players, both local and American. The new visa policy puts us at a great disadvantage with our Mexican, Dominican or Puerto Rican counterparts.

This issue joins the list of problems the LVBP faces: even if the league has gotten their dollars to keep working, the economic crisis has hit them to the point of requesting for special State aid. The National Assembly’s answer? NO.