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Things I Learned Watching A Few Hours Of The Venezuelan Winter League

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  • The whole reason I tuned in in the first place was to watch Michael Saunders. Venezuela makes the third country in which Mike doesn't know when to take the bat off his shoulders.

  • Road team uniforms in the VWL are equipped with external brassieres, presumably in an effort to shame the wearer.

  • Venezuelan tools and American tools are a lot alike.


  • Watching a game in the VWL is completely unlike watching a game in the Majors for me, and not just because I don't care about the results. While Major League Baseball remains in large part unpredictable, I know a lot about it. I know a lot about how it works and I know a lot about the players, so if I'm watching a game, then in any given situation I can't help but call on my knowledge in thinking about all the most likely outcomes. If Willie Ballgame goes up against Mariano Rivera, I know Willie's probably not going to get on base, and he's almost certainly not going to go deep. If the Orioles play the Yankees, I know the Yankees are probably going to clobber them to death. If Miguel Batista is pitching to anyone, I know it's probably going to be annoying. I'm just constantly and instinctively thinking about everything I know such that games lose a bit of that magic I used to feel when I was a kid.

    When I'm watching the VWL, though, I don't know shit about what's going on, I don't know shit about most of the players, and even if there's a guy with whom I'm somewhat familiar, I generally don't know shit about when he's in. I don't even know who the Cardenales de Lara were playing. It's, competitive, high-level baseball as unblemished by understanding as any baseball I'm ever gonna be able to watch. I kind of knew when Saunders was hitting, and I kind of knew when Luis Valbuena was hitting, but outside of that, between the nameless uniforms and the dearth of graphics and the Spanish-language broadcast, it was just an onslaught of Game, a game about which I never once remarked "well of course he missed that" or "he should've thrown the changeup."

    It's easy to say that learning so much about the numbers has enhanced my enjoyment of the sport, but the sport itself is fun enough as it is, and I can't fault anyone for not wanting to jeopardize the love they already feel by going off in pursuit of a better understanding. For many, the basics are sufficient.

  • I know that teams in the VWL will bring in a handful of American imports, but when you're navigating a Spanish-language website about a team in Venezuela, there are certain things you don't expect to see on the front page. This is one of them.

  • The phrase "sabor Venezolano" came up during the broadcast at least eight or nine times. I don't know enough Spanish to know if the announcers were referring to a particular style of baseball or if they were trying to sell me something delicious.

  • There were a lot of PA sound effects during certain parts of the game, such as that string sample from Psycho, suggesting that Lara's adversary has the same production budget as the Rangers.

  • Luis Ugueto plays for Lara. Remember Luis Ugueto? Hasn't been in a Major League organization for two years. Spent 2008 playing in Italy of all places before signing on with an independent team in Laredo. He is one of ten players on that team with a size that isn't listed as 0'0, 0 lbs. One of his teammates is named Robert Moron. 

  • Sometimes the stadium PA would chime in with the notes to the Ole! chant, only instead of being the familiar sort, their version was played in a minor key that made it 1000% more unsettling. 

  • The crowd wasn't huge, but it was spirited. I don't want to say that Americans are worse baseball fans (or sports fans in general), because truth be told it's just a difference in culture, but every time I watch a sporting event overseas I wish that fans here would make half as much noise. It's a difference in culture, but that part of our culture sucks.

  • Venezuelans believe in Santa, and their Santa puts his trust in Banco Federal.