I wrote in part one about the atmosphere around Venezuela and how it is different than America, now I want to talk about how the game is different and the same down here. When I thought about how I wanted to word this blog post, I kept reverting back to the movie Hoosiers, when the kids from Hickory, IN find themselves in the state title game. The coach has them come out to the court and measure basket, the distance from the free throw line and as well as a few others and all the measurements come out the same, and that’s what I felt like down here. When I got here, I didn’t quite know what to expect and I don’t know what I was expecting. Seventy foot mound distance? Hundred foot base paths? Or was there going to be a field at all? But that is the greatest thing about baseball, and sport in general. No matter when you go, no matter what corner of the globe you are in it doesn’t change. The equipment, players, coaches, and fans might but the basic rules of the game will forever remain the same.
The biggest difference I have noticed down here in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League is that game times are usually around the three to four-hour mark every game. I don’t know what people are talking about but man are there a lot of mound visits down here! I think I counted a total of 26 in a regulation nine inning game between both teams, it seemed like there was one every three pitches! Like I said, I got no idea what they were talking about but man it must have been important to not forget! The other major difference I have seen is the crowd! The crowd is a mix between a world cup soccer game and a good college football rivalry what I mean by that is there is every type of noise maker that has ever been produced at the game, combine that with the occasional vuvuzela blasting away you get some serious noise reverberating off these concrete stadiums. Then if that wasn’t enough you got the chanting and a drum line in the stands, that the college football side. It seems every time has a few chants that the fans love to yell every 4.6 seconds and then the fans for the other team will retaliate with theirs, although sometimes you really can’t understand what they are saying because for one they are in Spanish and too there are usually fifteen to twenty noise makers clogging my ears drums at any given moment. If you want to see examples of the noises during the games click the links. The first one is in Caracas before the start of the game, and the 2nd video is during a game at home in Margarita. http://www.twitvid.com/KPEV2 http://www.twitvid.com/SH21Z
I can honestly say that these are some of the most passionate fans I have ever seen! Yankees/Red Sox try Leones vs Magallanes there is a reason, which you will see in the videos that there are about thirty police officers on the field during ANY down time at all. I have heard stories of calls being over turned and people throwing glass bottles on the field the same way King Leonides was bombarded with arrows in 300! People do not come to baseball games to sit and chat and hang out with their friends, they stay locked in to every single pitch of every batter, it seems like they are more in tune with the game sometimes than the players in the dugout are. For the most part from what I have seen the fans are very passionate about the sport but things don’t get too out of hand, although I did see a few fights in the stands in Caracas.
The similarities in the game will always be there, although I have never been to the big leagues this is the most intimidating crowd and environment that I have been in on a baseball field, but I think it will be a good thing in the long run for me because if I am one of the fortunate few to make it to the greatest stage I know I will be better prepared.
The players down here are pretty good, you are allowed about 8 “imports” as they call us from the United States and usually those are guys from affiliated ball, we are sprinkled in with the Venezuelans that are in affiliated ball, and some who play in Italy, Mexico, and Japan. It seems to me that every team has an “older guy” that has been around for a while. Although I mentioned before that the games seem to last forever, with the mix of competition down here of some old, some young, sprinkled in with a few savvy vets I think there is no better place for me to be now to help me make my big league push in 2012.
Until next time!