A LOT ON THEIR MINDS
New Orleans Baby Cakes catcher Ramon Cabrera and Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Jairo Diaz are immensely proud of their heritage, especially when it comes to baseball.
These days, however, their minds are more on things in their native Venezuela than on its history as a nation that has produced the likes of Luis Aparicio, Dave Concepcion, Ozzie Guillen, Omar Vizquel, Miguel Cabrera, Andres Gallaraga, Felix Hernandez, Jose Altuve and many others.
“My family is there — my dad, my daughter,” said Diaz, closing his eyes and shaking his head. “It's not really good. It's crazy right now. I call every day. But they're OK right now.”
News reports say Venzuela could be on the verge of a civil war after opponents of President Nicolas Madura and his socialist regime attacked an army base Sunday.
“The best thing you can do is have communication every day,” said Cabrera, who is from Venezuela's largest city, Caracas. “All you can do is hope. I have my wife and my mom here, but I still have a lot of relatives and friends there. You keep hoping.”
Diaz is from Puerto La Cruz. He played Little League baseball with Baby Cakes catcher/first baseman Tomas Telis, who is now with the Miami Marlins.
Asked if the conflict at home has been a distraction that has made it difficult to play baseball, Diaz said: “No. I try to do my work every day. I'm trying to stay focused. It's hard, but I try to do the best.”
Cabrera, however, said the ballpark can be something of a sanctuary.
“Every time I go out (to the field), I forget everything,” he said. “I focus on the game and what I have to do.”
Cabrera and Diaz spoke of how strong Little League programs and a climate that allows baseball to be played all year has put Venezuela perhaps on par with the Dominican Republic for sending Latin American talent to the major leagues.
However, the large number of pro players the country has produced also has brought its problems. Family members of major league players often are held for ransom, for instance.
Miguel Cabrera, a two-time American League Most Valuable Player, spoke out against Maduro and what he said was corruption in government has lends itself to the kidnappings.
Cabrera is one of four Venezuelans on the Baby Cakes, counting Telis. Pitchers Omar Bencomo and William Cuevas, who was scheduled to start Tuesday's game, also are from there. ... The Marlins purchased the contract of Cakes reliever Javy Guerra, giving him his first call-up of the season. He has a 4.99 ERA in 33 games with New Orleans, with two saves in four chances. However, he has not allowed a run in his past four appearances, totaling 6.1 innings. That includes 2.1 innings on the Cakes' recent 0-8 California road trip in which the pitching staff allowed 47 runs. ... Monday's win against Alburquerque, which came in the bottom of the 10th inning, was only the second of the season for the Cakes when trailing after eight innings. They were 1-58, the only other win in that situation coming July 14, an 11-10 victory at Oklahoma City.