Eugenio Suárez and José Peraza occupy the left side of the Cincinnati Reds infield. Where they stand, it is not a place that you want to allow your mind to wander.
But there’s more than baseball on their minds these days.
Suárez and Peraza are from Venezuela. The homeland is in turmoil.
“It’s something you try not to think about,” said Reds assistant trainer Tomas Vera, another Venezuelan. “You try to feel that everything is OK and concentrate on what you do here in the States. But the reality is when you call home and talk to someone, they let you know right away that it’s not good.
“It’s hard to get food. We’re missing this. We’re missing that. You try to help the best you can. It’s super hard to think about. You want it to end. It scares you when the phone rings because you don’t know what can happen.”
Venezuela is in the international headlines daily. Nicolas Maduro was re-elected president in May, but many countries, including the United States, dispute the election results and don’t recognize him as the leader. The U.S. instead backs opposition leader Juan Guaido.
The U.S. has sent aid, but Maduro is not letting it into the country. The situation may come to a head Saturday, according to Axios, when Guaido’s followers will try to force Maduro to let the food and medicine across the Colombian border.
Suárez, Peraza and Vera all have extended family in Venezuela.
“I talk to them every day,” Suárez said. “They can’t get food, medicine. It’s tough. That’s what I think about. All my family is there. All my wife’s family is there. We need something different. We need this guy out of there.”
Suárez and Peraza both returned home in the offseason.
“At that time, it was good,” Suárez said, “maybe because it was December, the holidays. Everyone was quiet, not a big problem. I enjoyed myself. I was safe.
“When I came back here, everything was worse. It was terrible. We’ve got a new president – kind of.”
Venezuela is a big country – twice the size of California. Geography affects how safe the area is. Suárez is from Puerto Ordaz, a small town in the southern part of the country near the Brazilian border.
“The best thing is we live in a small town,” Suárez said. “They’re safe. Not safe, safe, but they’re better than the other people. It’s bad but not like the city.”
Peraza is from Barinas. He lives on a farm. When he stayed close to home, he felt safe. But big league players have to be cautious.
Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in 2011. Luis Valbuena and José Castillo were killed in an automobile crash caused by highway bandits in December.
“You need to know where you’re going,” he said. “You go somewhere not so good and you got a problem. Where I stay it’s safe. I’ve got a farm. It’s nothing like in the city.”
Vera is from the capital of Caracas, the most dangerous city in the world.
“There are places in the city where you can’t go,” Vera said. “The poverty and the lack of education is getting worse. That’s what they’ve found: ‘Let’s rob somebody.’
“In my case, my mom and two sisters are still there. They’re fine. When I say fine, they wake up every day and they have something to eat.”
Vera hasn’t returned to his home country since 2013. He’s a U.S. citizen.
“The reality is even as a U.S. citizen I need a Venezuelan passport to get in and out,” Vera said. “They don’t let you in because they know that you’re Venezuelan-born. I’ve been waiting for the website to give me an appointment to renew my passport for three years. That’s the type of government they are.”
It’s not the kind of thing you can put out of your mind.
“I worry about it,” Suárez said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re prepared. We know something is going to happen, but we don’t know what. We don’t know how big the problem will be.”