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

By Milton H. Jamail | Go to book overview

11
Foreigners at Their
Own Game:
Welcome to the Astros’
Minor League System

Every player at the Venezuelan academy is delighted when told he will travel to the United States. But for those making the trip to Kissimmee, Florida, for the first time, excitement is tempered with fear of the unknown.

“When they take the flight to come to the States, they understand that they are leaving everything behind, and they know that everything will be different when they get off the plane,” explained Andrés.

And the anticipation of what will follow is so traumatic, that Andrés can’t recognize some of the players. “They look like they were changed during the flight.”

The phenomenon he witnessed is nothing new: it has occurred as long as players from Latin America have pursued their major league dream in the United States.

“We are strangers. I need a passport to come here,” wrote Felipe Alou, a San Francisco Giants outfielder from the Dominican Republic in 1963. “Most Latin players feel they are outsiders,” added Alou, who later managed the Giants, in his groundbreaking article, “Latin American ballplayers need a Bill of Rights” in Sport magazine in November 1963.1

Two years earlier, Dámaso Blanco, a nineteen-year-old middle-infield prospect from Caracas, signed with San Francisco and was sent to the Class D El Paso team in the Sophomore League that included franchises in West Texas and eastern New Mexico.

“We were playing in Hobbs, New Mexico, a very small town, and because I was black, I was not allowed to eat in the same restaurant

-161-

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