By Lawrence J. McQuillan
Spring is around the corner, which means the 2016 Major League Baseball (MLB) season starts soon. Baseball has long been an international game, but more so today than ever.
On opening day last year, 230 players on the 25-man rosters and inactive lists were born outside the 50 U.S. states, or 27 percent of the players. They represented 17 countries and territories outside the U.S.
The Dominican Republic led with 83 foreign-born players. Venezuela was second with 65 players including two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, All-Star Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, and 2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval, then with the San Francisco Giants. But Venezuela’s prominence could soon end.
Baseball in Venezuela was introduced by US oil workers in the early 20th century. MLB teams once had 23 Venezuelan baseball academies to develop top prospects.
But due to devastating economic problems created by the socialist government in Venezuela, only four academies remain.
Venezuela has less economic freedom than any country in the world. Widespread crime, chronic food shortages, and hyperinflation have prompted teams to close their academies and exit the country.
The departure of baseball academies has hurt local economies and reduced entertainment options for residents – baseball is the national pastime in Venezuela.
Closing the academies has also made it more difficult for young prospects to pursue their dreams — the greatest loss of all.
Below is an excellent story by National Public Radio on the plight of baseball in Venezuela that’s worth listening to for anyone who is a fan of baseball and supporter of liberty.