Baseball inspires Venezuelans amid country’s inflation, hunger, and crime

Latin America

Baseball 1

Baseball – called the “national pastime” in the United States – is something of an obsession in Venezuela, the only South American country where it’s even more popular than football.  And as Venezuelans struggle to cope with triple digit inflation, food shortages and rising crime rates, for many people, baseball represents success.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas reports from Caracas.

Baseball inspires Venezuelans amid country's inflation, hunger and crime

Baseball - called the "national pastime" in the United States - is something of an obsession in Venezuela, the only South American country where it's even more popular than football. And as Venezuelans struggle to cope with triple digit inflation, food shortages and rising crime rates, for many people, baseball represents success. CGTN's Juan Carlos Lamas reports from Caracas.

It’s game day for the Caracas Cumbres. Today they’re playing the Gran Mariscals, and as they prepare to take to the field, they’re conscious of the hopes and dreams of their families. For these young players as well as their parents and coaches, baseball is serious business. It represents a way out.

“I dreamed of being in the Major Leagues but I didn’t make it. That doesn’t matter anymore because some of the guys I trained are there now, thanks to my advice and instruction, and for me it’s like being there too,” said Antonio Fuentes, Coach, Caracas Cumbres.

At this field in Caracas nearly 200 children ages four to 15 hone their baseball skills for hours every day after school. They dream of making it as professional baseball players in the United States where multi-million dollar salaries are just part of the draw.

For thousands of Venezuelan boys, the possibility of playing professional baseball in the U.S. makes all the practice worthwhile.

More than 350 players born in Venezuelan have made it to the Major Leagues, over 100 of them were on active rosters last year alone.

Deteriorating relations between Venezuela and the U.S. complicate the journey from a Caracas sand lot to a major league stadium.

Since 2015 Americans have needed a visa to enter Venezuela, limiting the visits by major league scouts looking for talent. Even so, more than 500 prospects have been signed by major league teams in the last two years.

And these coaches, many with their own children on the teams, are hoping to help mold the next pitching ace or home run hitter.

“When I was 18 years old I lost my father and had to quit playing baseball. I had to go to work to bring food to my family, because I was the oldest of four brothers. But now my dreams have come alive once again with my son who shares the same passion I have towards baseball,” said Andres Da Silva, coach of the Caracas Cumbres.

Perhaps it was the passion, perhaps the skill, and maybe it was a combination of the two. On this day the Gran Mariscals beat out the Caracas Cumbres, and players on both sides are looking forward to the next game.