MLB's Future in Venezuela Uncertain

Political mandates could push baseball out of huge talent pool
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2007 6:43 AM CST
In this image released by Venezuela's Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez runs on the field before an ALBA Games baseball game between Venezuela and Cuba at a military base in Caracas,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Baseball is big in Venezuela, and vice versa: 200 Venezuelans have played in MLB, including 50 who are currently active. You’d expect clubs to be racing to the country in search of talent, but concerns about Venezuela’s political climate are actually scaring them away: The Padres, Orioles, Red Sox, and Indians have all discontinued formerly active player development operations there in recent years, ESPN reports.

President Hugo Chavez’ nationalization of some industries gave MLB pause, but proposed legislation demanding government oversight and a percentage of players’ signing bonuses could be the deal killer, and MLB has told the government as much, before talks between the parties ended in March. While some in Venezuela fear an MLB shutout, others are hopeful a relationship over baseball could smooth political ties with the US.