Arguably no other foreign country outside of the Dominican Republic has shaped the modern era of Major League Baseball more than that of the South American country of Venezuela. It’s produced the second-most MLB players of any foreign country, including two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.
That’s led to a pipeline of academies being established by just about every MLB team in the volatile country. However, those academies and the future of those players in each academy set up are now in doubt as the government devolves in to utter chaos and instability.
It’s gotten so bad that crime has become a major concern for MLB academies and according to a report by NPR teams are uprooting everything and everyone to the Dominican Republic.
Due to skyrocketing crime, most teams have closed their academies and moved the players to similar academies they run in the Dominican Republic, says Hector Ortega, the Cubs trainer in Guacara.
Just how bad are things in the socialist country? According to the report, food shortages forced the Seattle Mariners to shutter its operation last season. The Mariners couldn’t even find enough flour, eggs, and chicken to prepare three meals a day for 40 hungry players.
As of today, just four teams — the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies — still run academies in the troubled country.
It means less and less opportunities for players who weren’t already in academy situations to be seen by MLB scouts and make dreams of a better life in America a reality. However, given the political and social climate between the Venezuelan and United States governments, its a wise move from the perspective of the teams.
Once situations change though, you can bet MLB scouts will be back looking for the next Cabrera or Jose Altuve to groom.