Life in Baseball is a real challenge
The road to the Big Leagues is distantly different for a Latino, especially from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. In this countries, Major League teams can sign a player when is 16 years old. There is no need to be drafted from a school or anything like that. Scouts travel the country from coast to coast to watch the millions of kids who practice baseball in the well-developed Little League Baseball System. They come from the lower classes, and for them Baseball is living way for them and their families. Most of them are not well educated; Baseball is the main concern in their lives. This is an explanation for the large amount of good prospects around the Caribbean countries.
After considering a prospect, a tryout is prepared to check the abilities, and usually the scout offers a signing bonus according to the player’s abilities. These bonuses can vary from six-thousand to two-million dollars. In addition, a minor bonus is given for signing the player for a Venezuelan team. After this, the teenager belongs to the Big League Club as well as is part of a national team.
Usually if the player is too young or more development is needed, it is assigned to the Venezuelan Summer League, which was created by Major League Baseball in Venezuela, to avoid the high cost travel and the fast-change environment for the player. Rookies play during spring and summer in the league under the supervision of MLB coaches.
If the player is an advanced prospect, it is sent to the United States where is assigned to a Minor League Club, after weeks of training. In the minors, players do not earn more than $2000 (except for AAA), and the commodities are far distant to the Majors. Players have to pay with the salary their housing and meals, and most of them send home a large part of the salary.
Everyday is difficult for the ones on little towns across the United States, sometimes they live in groups of five or six in small apartments to save money; most of them do not speak English, and sometimes are perceived like stupids. However, this is never the attitude shown on the field.
In their game, players give 200%, only to advance from
one category to another (e.g. A to AA), to receive as fast as they can the
famous "call" that change their lives in a second. Most of them
expect the call for years, and it is never received.
Latinos have to work twice harder to be recognized
Raul Chavez, a Venezuelan catcher for the Houston Astros, says in an interview that the most difficult thing in the world is to reach the Big Show. “You can't imagine how difficult is to be a minor leaguer, everything is difficult. You have to work twice harder to be recognized. Is tough to compete between anxious and well-prepared people. We (Latinos) suffer a lot of homesick when things are getting hard, and over there, things are always hard," explained the four-season major leaguer.
Chavez adds: "When you are in the Majors, only the uncomfortable things are finished, because the real difficult task is not being there as to keep in there. Now you deal with the real tough guys and you are only a kid full of pressure trying to do your best".
For some Venezuelans the delight of being in the majors has lasted 3 days of their careers. Others have been there for 15 and 19 uninterrupted years. After Baseball comes a bitter period, where the player do not know exactly what to do. The ones who have not succeeded may find worst this period.
Nevertheless, one thing is true: Baseball is a short period in an athlete's life, and the risk of taking it as a career is the probability to loose the youthfulness trying to reach a dream. The one who reaches it lives it in forever.
Venezuela has grown more than 60.000 professional baseball players.
Less than 150 have played in the Major League Baseball.
Only 1 is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.