Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom: Andraes Reiner and Scouting on the New Frontier

By Milton H. Jamail | Go to book overview

8
Maracuchos y Gochos:
Scouting in Maracaibo
and the Andes

Orlando Fernández made the six-hour drive from his home in San Cristóbal, on the Colombian border, to pick me up in Maracaibo in July 2001. I tagged along as he visited his baseball contacts in Maracaibo, and then went on a scouting trip with him through the Andes. Earlier in the year, Fernández had taken an early retirement from his job as sports instructor and was hired as a full-time scout by the Astros to cover the western Venezuelan states of Barinas, Mérida, Táchira, Trujillo, and Zulia. It’s not easy to discover baseball players in a region where soccer is the dominant sport. But it was nothing new for Fernández who was brought on-board by Andrés after the two met in 1990 at a baseball tournament in Anaco, on the other side of the country in the oil fields of eastern Venezuela. Andrés was there looking for players and trying to set up his scouting network, while Fernandez had gone as the manager of a team of seventeenand eighteen-year-old players from Táchira. Andrés offered Fernández, now in his early fifties, a position as an unpaid associate scout to cover the Táchira area. He accepted, and spent eleven years doing basically the same job he now has except without a salary. While Fernández has been involved with baseball most of his life, he is one of the few Astros scouts or instructors who did not play baseball professionally.

Fifteen years after my first trip to Venezuela, I finally made it to Maracaibo, a huge city with a population of more than 3 million, spread out for miles on the western shore of Lake Maracaibo. Tell a Venezuelan from anywhere else in the country that you are going to

-107-

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