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Life in the Venezuelan winter league

Jan 3, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

venezuelan flag

Here’s a good AP story about life in the Venezuelan winter league. On the one hand there are security risks, logistical hassles and anti-American sentiment to contend with. On the other hand: roaring crowds and big money compared to minor league salaries:

For players accustomed to the small crowds of minor league stadiums back home, the frequently sold out Estadio Universitario in Caracas can be daunting. Abundant servings of rum and whiskey and a nerve-rattling cacophony of drums pump up the 25,000 screaming fans who hang on every pitch.

“It’s Friday night football every game, all the game,” said Jamie Romak, a 28-year-old outfielder for La Guaira who played for the St. Louis Cardinal’s AAA team in Memphis, Tennessee.

Risk and reward. Made most compelling by the fact that, like Romak and other minor leaguers mentioned in the article, success in Venezuela could be the difference between making a living playing baseball or having to quit and go find something else to do with their lives.

  1. anxovies - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I guess this is Craig’s week in the barrel while the other web writers take a vacation. Dark days. Most of the big FAs have been signed, the Winter meetings are over and only a glimmer of hope that ARod’s arbitration decision will come down or Tanaka will sign with somebody. This is when character really counts. This is yeoman’s work and my hat’s off to you Craig. Gird your loins and pray that somebody important has a meltdown on a sports show or Jeff Loria does something really, really stupid.

  2. historiophiliac - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Thank you for saving baseball, Venezuela.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 3, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      BTW, that’s a pretty bad-arse flag — almost as good as Oklahoma’s.

  3. ptfu - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Abundant rum and whiskey at the ballgame? I’ve clearly been doing it wrong. Ballgame booze would have improved those long losing seasons.

    • mckludge - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Liquor and baseball are the new bread and circuses.

      • Old Gator - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        I never use these stupid thumbs but I just one-upped you for the mere literacy of that comment.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        Well played, sir.

    • chacochicken - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      I spend a lot of effort trying to smuggle liquor into baseball games. With this new information, I think I may begin spending winters in Venezuela.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        HBT road trip!

      • chacochicken - Jan 3, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        HBT Venezuelan correspondents?

      • historiophiliac - Jan 3, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Well, I *do* follow Miggy on Twitter…

      • kevinbnyc - Jan 3, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        I can think of a prominent Venezuelan former manager who would make a GREAT HBT Venezuela correspondent.

    • bronco58lb - Jan 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      I have been to Mexican Pacific League games and you can buy a 32 ounce beer for $2. I love those games. I wish more MLB players and prospects went down there like the old days.

  4. blynch67 - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Interesting to think about security risks for American players… No doubt there have always been political tensions between the two countries but, I never thought there could be ramifications for American players in their winter leagues.

    • chacochicken - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Kidnapping and a potential ransoming just add to the excitement and exoticism.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        You know what they do to chickens down there, don’t you?

  5. unclemosesgreen - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Great article. You have to root for El Conejo. Or at least I do.

  6. NatsLady - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    This is very interesting, especially the money minor-leaguers can make. I guess because of the limit on non-native players, teams send guys down there for a month and then swap them out. At least I hope that’s what they’re doing, rather than guys coming home because they’re hurt. If anyone is interested, MLB tracks how they players from each MLB team are going. Here’s the Nats link (columns are sortable).

  7. rbj1 - Jan 3, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    I wish MLBNetwork would televise some of these games. It’s winter and I’m starving for some actual baseball.

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