Little League Baseball in Venezuela
"En una competición como la Serie Mundial es una oportunidad única para demostrar a todos de lo que eres capaz de hacer dentro y fuera del campo y nosotros dimos lo máximo. Hemos demostrado que a pesar de los problemas económicos que tenemos en nuestro país también sabemos educar y formar a nuestros jóvenes deportistas y competir en igualdad de condiciones con países como Estados Unidos. Estamos viviendo un gran sueño que se hizo realidad."
Eduvino Quevedo, team manager
On August 26, 2000, the team from Maracaibo, Venezuela won the Little League World Series (la Serie Mundial Infantil de Pequeñas Ligas) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, USA. This is the final stop for a Cinderella team that was almost eliminated in the Latin American championships, came to Williamsport and lost their first game to Japan by a score of 10-0, but finally persisted to win the championship game by a score of 3-2.
The game of baseball was invented in the United States of America and became known as the national pastime in that country. Still, in USA, baseball shares the national limelight with other major sports such as American football, basketball and ice hockey. The game of baseball became popular in a number of other regions in the world, such as Asia and Latin America, but not in Europe or Africa. In Latin America, baseball is the leading sport in a number of countries --- Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Based upon the economic structure of the game, the measure of success for a player is to be able to reach the professional Major League Baseball of the United States of America. A number of Venezuelans are top players in MLB --- Andrés ("El Gran Gato") Galarraga, Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Guillén. Within Venezuela itself, there is a great deal of excitement about the Venezuelan baseball leagues, where the teams (such as the Leones of Caracas, the Navegantes of Magellanes, the Tigres of Aragua, and the Águilas of Zulia) and players have loyal fans. In the winter, during Major League Baseball off-season, some of their named players may play in Venezuela. A major international tournament is the Caribbean Series among teams from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
According to the 1998 Pan Latin-American Kids Study, 55% of Venezuelan children between the ages of 7 and 11 years old said that they liked to play baseball, compared to just 12% in the other 17 Latin American countries. When asked if they liked to watch baseball on television, 61% of Venezuelan kids said yes, compared to 12% in the other 17 Latin American countries.
For Venezuelan kids, there is a gender gap in baseball mania. 74% of the boys said that they like to play baseball compared to 36% of girls. The gender gap shrinks a little bit for television spectatorship: 71% of the boys said that they like to watch baseball compared to 50% of girls.
For those who are used to seeing the Little League games in the United States of America, they may have imageries of neatly manicured natural grass fields , brick red base paths, flood lights for night games, sparking clean uniforms and protective equipment manufactured according to specifications. In Venezuela, this may be hard to come by, but that does not prevent kids from playing and enjoying the game. Pickup games (known as caimaneras) can be played just about anywhere. If they don't happen to have gloves and bats, they can play the game of chapitas where they try to hit chapitas (bottle caps) with broomsticks. In that sense, baseball is a mass participatory sport.
In the following table, we show the percentages of Venezuelan kids who liked to play or watch baseball by socio-economic level. Baseball is in fact the most popular along the poorest kids.
|Socio-Economic Level||% Liked to play baseball||% Liked to watch baseball on television|
|Level A (top 10%)
Level B (next 20%)
Level C (next 30%)
Level D (next 40%)
(source: 1998 Pan Latin American Kids Study)
Baseball is a sport that is replete with idiosyncratic terminology. Obviously, when the game is imported to a foreign country, the linguistic transformation is an interesting field of observation for the conflicts between the desire to be faithful to the original meaning and the need to communicate in an understandable fashion. The following table shows the English and Spanish words for various baseball terms. This is indeed an odd mix of borrowings, ranging from direct copying (e.g. pitcher, foul), to transliteration (e.g. jonrón, fear ball) to translation (e.g. primera base, campo corto).
|English word(s)||Spanish word(s)|
Base on ball (walk)
Jit / Imparables
Toque de bola
Runs Batted In
Earned Run Average (ERA)
Veces al Bate
Promedio de Bateo
Carreras / Anotadas
Pitcher / Lanzador
Segunda base / Camarero
Tercera base / Antesalista
Campo corto / shortstop
|Manager||Mánager / Maneger|
|Rookie of the Year||Novato del Año|
|Most Valuable Player||Jugador Más Valioso|
|Hall of Fame||Salón de la Fama|
|Baseball cards||Barajitas de béisbol|
One of the ancillary industries derived from baseball is trading cards. In Venezuela, baseball trading cards are known as barajitas de béisbol. According to the 1998 Pan Latin American Kids Study, 7% of kids in Venezuela own trading cards. Among those who like to play baseball, the incidence goes up to 8%. Among those who like to watch baseball on television, the incidence goes up to 9%. We are glad to see that commodity fetishism has not taken hold here.
VENEZUELAN BASEBALL TEAMS
(posted by Roland Soong on 8/26/00)
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