Guys like Jose Altuve, Ender Inciarte, and Salvador Perez are some of the more exciting ball players coming out of Venezuela, but there used to be more. I remember watching players such as Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Gonzalez inspiring and speaking wonderfully about their country, but now you see them speaking more honestly. Venezuela used to be a hotbed for international prospects coming to Major League teams, but political unrest and high crime have since made Venezuela all but forgotten.
Baseball in Venezuela is still rabid amongst its diehard fans, but the decline in popularity and baseball players coming out of the region is still happening. The political situation has resulted in food shortages and high crime rates that deter many baseball players and fans from partaking in events. Miguel Cabrera has even come out and said he has had to pay bribes for his family living there to ensure their safety. In 2011, Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in Venezuela and in 2018, Elias Diaz, a player for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mother was also kidnapped.
This has a ripple effect to MLB teams, as the decline in baseball academies in Venezuela have been cut. Over 20 teams used to have facilities out of Venezuela in the mid 2000s, a number that is now down to six. Get that, only 6/30 MLB teams have facilities in a country that has produced legendary ball players. Teams are taking notice to the political and socioeconomic situations and are taking their facilities (and money) elsewhere.
So what does this mean? Well, Venezuela still produces elite talent at the MLB level, though there are only so many ball players going through academies each year. Gone are the days every team would have at least some Venezuelan presence in their lineup to start the season. Venezuela and baseball will always be synonymous with each other. It is ingrained in their culture. They still have some of the highest percentages ofplayers coming into the Majors, but that number is declining The players are there, the talent is there. They don’t need anyone to look up to, but they, like so many players in Latin America, need an escape. And until the situation in Venezuela clears, MLB teams are going to keep their business elsewhere.