Baseball – the leading sport in Venezuela

(VOVworld) - In Venezuela, sports play an important role in people’s lives. Of all the sports, baseball attracts the greatest number of participants. Today VOV talks to Ms Maikki from Venezuela, a baseball player, to find out why Venezuelan people love baseball so much.

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Venezuela fans cheer with a country flag while taking on the Netherlands during round 2 of the World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium in 2009 in the US. (Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Q: Welcome Ms Maikki. Thank you for joining us on Cultural Rendezvous today. How popular is baseball in your country?

A:  We have so many baseball schools for training. Most people in our neighborhood have a place to play baseball. The wonderful thing about baseball in my country is that you don’t need to be on a team, you can play it in your community because we always have a place designated for it.  We have a lot of good players. They come from very poor villages and they become better people, very professional, thanks to baseball. We have a lot of players setting records, the best players in the world, like Wilson Ramos, Omar Vizquel, and Andres Galarraga. One thing our players do when they get famous is to create free baseball schools in their community. They have baseball trainers there to teach the boys. And the sponsors are famous players.

Q: What do you think makes baseball the favorite sport in your country?

A: That’s a very interesting question. They are trying to make soccer more popular, but baseball is still the one. I think it’s because it’s very easy to play. You don’t need a ball. You can play with just two people with a stick and a bottle cap. And baseball doesn’t require money to play. You can play baseball anywhere. The poor people in my country don’t have a ball or a bat. They just have a stick and a bottle cap. They begin with that and they begin to run. It’s very good because it help keep the children and the young people away from drugs. It’s a good way of being together in the community. We play it every day, which makes every day very good. I think it’s about the friendship and later it becomes a dream. Something very interesting about our players is that when they became very famous, they don’t forget about their community. And their families don’t move out of the poor community even after they become very rich.

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Baseball dreams in Venezuela: A boy is put out during a baseball practice in the coastal town of Ocumare, Venezuela. (Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

Q: When is the baseball season in Venezuela? What is the biggest competition?

A: The baseball season begins in October and ends in February. Our professional league has been around for 70 years. That’s very important in Latin America. The best is the classic World Championship and the American League is also famous because all our players play there. They often say it’s International League, but actually it’s American League. December is the most important time of the season, because it’s decided then which two teams will be going to the final. So December is a good time because we have Christmas, we have holidays, so we have free time to go to the stadiums and watch the great competition between the teams: the Caribbean competition. Because the winner of the national league is going to the Caribbean competition. So they finish the competition in February- the baseball season in Venezuela. And then they go to the competition in the Caribbean with the six best countries in baseball. Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Panama. They are the top five countries in baseball.

Q: What is baseball’s role in Venezuelan people’s lives?

A: Venezuelan baseball is our passion. It’s about friendship, about family, and it’s all for us. If you meet a girl or boy, a man or a woman, and she or he says: “Oh no, I’m not a fan of any baseball team!” you can say “Oh, he is not from Venezuela”. And the baseball season is so exciting. If I’m from one team and you’re from the other one, we can joke with each other. For example, the most famous team is The Caracas Lions. Another is The Sailors. They’ll say: “Ok, today we’re going to eat the Lions!”, and the Lions will say: “Today your ship is going to be on the water!” My team is The Sharks, so some people may say: “Oh, today we’re going to eat FISH!”

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Venezuela's Pablo Sandoval celebrates with Carlos Gonzales #5 after hitting a home run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in  2013 in Puerto Rico. (Photo: Getty Images)

Q: Is there any rules when playing professional baseball?

A: There is a book of rules. When you watch the game, it looks easy, but it’s not. It has so many rules that they need a book. When you’re playing in your neighborhood with your father and friends, the most important thing is to hit the ball and keep running and go to the hall and score. The catchers have to have protection because the ball is very heavy and the speed of the ball can be 90miles/hour, very fast because the pitcher is very strong. That’s why the catchers need so much protection. And when the bat hits the ball, it can go 120miles/hour, so the batters have to wear helmets.

Q: Does that mean baseball is for males?

A: There is another kind of baseball called “softball”. The field is smaller, the ball is bigger. It is very popular in Venezuela with girls. Our female teams are number one in Latin America. We don’t need to hit too hard.

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Johana Rosalyx Gomez Sequera of Venezuela pitches while taking on Japan during the softball game at the Fengtai Softball Field during Day 9 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
(Photo: Jed Jacobjohn)

Q: How long have you been playing baseball and why do you like this sport?

A: Well, that was my first sport. I began playing when I was 4 years old. My father was a journalist in a very famous newspaper in my country. He was the editor of the Sports section, so I had the privilege of going with him to all the competitions, gymnastics, baseball, soccer... But I loved baseball the most because it is very important in my country. We used to play together and I was on a baseball team where tiny girls and boys play baseball. It’s a way of sharing between father and son or father and daughter. I know that in Spain, their passion is soccer, but in Venezuela, it’s baseball. It’s a perfect game for sharing. Not just between father and children but between friends. It’s not just playing. You can invite your friends and turn on the TV, open some beers, and watch a good game.

Q: Thank you so much for the talk today. That has been Ms Maikki from Venezuela on Cultural Rendezvous. Goodbye until next time!

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