In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, many sports are practiced, from baseball, soccer and basketball to cycling, running, boxing, fencing, volleyball, rowing and swimming. Through its Ministry of People’s Power for Sports, the government of President Nicolas Maduro, following the interest in sports of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution Hugo Chavez, has offered extensive support to Venezuelan athletes. The results of these efforts have been seen in international competitions of soccer, baseball and handball, as well as in increased numbers of athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games. Venezuela sent 109 athletes to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and 69 to the 2012 Olympics in London. Both years, it also sent a delegation of 27 athletes to the Paralympic Games. In 2012, Venezuela got its second gold medal in history when Rubén Limardo won in men’s fencing. After his achievement, he highlighted the support he received from his fellow Venezuelans and from the Venezuelan government. The efforts of the Chávez government go beyond promoting the highly competitive sports; at the same time, a greater inclusion of communities in sports has been similarly pursued to foster recreation and healthy lifestyles. In recent years, more than three million Venezuelans have joined local sports programs and initiatives.
Baseball is the most popular competitive sport in Venezuela. There is no city or town, however small, that does not have a baseball team. From these small teams originate many of the Venezuelan ballplayers that go to the Major Leagues in the U.S. and in countries like Italy, France, Mexico and Japan. Venezuela has more players in the U.S. major leagues than any other country besides the Dominican Republic.
In Venezuela, the professional baseball season starts in the middle of October and ends in the last week of February. Because it is a “winter league,” some Venezuelan players who compete on U.S. teams return home to participate.
Recent Feats of Venezuelan Ballplayers in the Major Leagues:
- In 2012 The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced that the winner of the Most Valuable Player award for the American League was Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, the first Venezuelan ever to earn this distinction. During the same season, Cabrera became the first player in 45 years and the 12th in history to win the Triple Crown for batting.
- Nine Venezuelans played in the World Series in 2012, including Pablo Sandoval of the San Franciso Giants, who became the first Venezuelan to be chosen as World Series M.V.P.
- In June of 2012, Johan Santana made history in the Major League Baseball by pitching the first no-hit game on record for the New York Mets, and the fourth Venezuelan to do so.
- In July 2012 , seven Venezuelan players were selected to participate in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in Kansas City. This was a record number for the country, which had six All-Stars in 2004.
- In August 2012 Félix Hernández of the Seattle Mariners became the first Venezuelan-born player in the Major Leagues to pitch a perfect game. He won the Cy Young Award in 2010 for being the best pitcher in the American League.
- In the 2011 season, left fielder Gerardo Parra of the Arizona Diamondbacks became the fifth Venezuelan to win a Golden Glove for his performance in the major leagues.
- Pitcher Felix Hernandez was chosen to receive the Cy Yong Award, hence becoming the best pitcher in the American League in 2010.
- In 2010, Major League Baseball celebrated Venezuelan Heritage Night for the first time at a game between the Mets and the Tigers at Citi Field in New York
- Venezuelan shortstop Omar Vizquel made Major League history in 2010 by reaching 2,674 career hits and beating the record previously held by Venezuela’s Luis Aparicio in the Hall of Fame.
- In 2010, Manuel Gonzalez became the first Venezuelan umpire in the major leagues. Gonzalez made history when he debuted on third base in a game of the Florida Marlins versus the Arizona Diamondbacks.
- Johan Santana named the best pitcher in effectiveness in more innings during the 2008 season.
- Miguel Cabrera named champion home run hitter during the 2008 season.
- Magglio Ordoñez won the American League’s batting title in 2007 with a batting average of .363.
- In 2008, four Venezuelan ballplayers participated in the All-Star Game, where special homage was paid the Venezuela’s only Hall of Fame inductee — Luis Aparicio.
- In 2008 Bobby Abreu stole his 300th base, becoming the twelfth player since 1950 to accumulate 400 doubles, 200 home runs and 300 bases stolen in his career.
- Omar Vizquel became the shortstop with the most appearances and double-plays in the history of the Major Leagues in the 2008 season.
Did You Know That …
- A total of 281 Venezuelans have played in the Major League from 1939 to 2012?
67 Venezuelans stayed active on MLB teams through 2012 season?
In 2006 and 2008, a record 18 Venezuelans debuted in the Major Leagues.
Source: Major League Baseball
Other Sports of Interest:
- Soccer: Known in Spanish as fútbol, this sport was played in Venezuela before baseball became a national pastime. Though its popularity was eclipsed by that of baseball, soccer continues to be a favorite sport for many, and in recent years Venezuela’s national team, known as “La Vinotinto” for the red wine color of their jerseys, has improved its performance and played well on the international level.
- Volleyball: As a national sport, volleyball has become more and more popular in recent years. The Venezuelan national team has managed to win high-caliber international competitions, such as the 2003 Pan-American Games, where it received a Gold Medal.
- Basketball: After baseball, basketball is the most widely played sport in Venezuela’s cities and towns. Almost every neighborhood and town has their own basketball courts, where children and youth alike spend a large part of their free time. A number of Venezuelans have played internationally.
- Fishing: Venezuela’s vast Caribbean coastline is one of the best places on earth for salt water fishing, and many species can be found throughout the year including swordfish and bone fish. One of the most well-known places to fish in Venezuela is called “El Placer,” some 12 nautical miles of the central coast.
To learn more about sports in our country, click here.