Spring is around the corner, which means the 2016 Major League Baseball 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 and All Star Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. But Venezuela’s prominence could end soon.
Baseball was introduced to Venezuela in the 1920s by U.S. oil workers. MLB teams once had 23 baseball academies in Venezuela 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. This is 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 like me who loves baseball and liberty.