SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- While the Rockies were in the daily routine of Spring Training on Tuesday, in Venezuela the news broke of the death of President Hugo Chavez. The leader fell to a cancer that had affected him for approximately two years.
The Rockies have 10 players from that country on their current roster, with seven of them present at the team's spring camp at Salt River Fields: catchers Yorvit Torrealba, Jose Gonzalez and Gustavo Molina; infielder Jonathan Herrera, outfielder Rafael Ortega and pitchers Rafael Betancourt and Edgmer Escalona. The current absentees, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, catcher Ramon Hernandez and pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, are in Florida with Team Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic.
For these players, the priority after the game was looking for their phones in order to read the latest news. Their hearts were in Venezuela, and they expressed their confidence in their country finding a peaceful resolution in these uncertain times.
"There is no reason to be happy about the passing of any human being," said Herrera, who was born in the western city of Maracaibo. "These are moments in order to keep calm and respect. Of course we are concerned about our loved ones who are in Venezuela. We can only ask fellow Venezuelans to stay calm, that's what we need in moments like this one."
"This is a tough situation, I don't want to see my country involved in a violent situation, with chaos in the streets", Torrealba said. "Our relatives are there. Our thoughts are with them, we want the situation to progress in a peaceful manner.
"My main concern is that we can figure out a solution to the delinquency issue and that our streets can be safer."
Torrealba knows first-hand what it's like to face a stressful situation from afar: In 2009, his then-11-year-old son and brother-in-law were abducted in Venezuela. They were freed safe and sound.
Kidnapping is arguably the biggest issue for Venezuelans these days, and it has grabbed the world's attention due to the circumstances faced by Major Leaguers from that country, who are among the nation's main sources of pride. They are constant topics of discussion in the Venezuelan conversation, which makes them a visible target for criminals.
The kidnapping epidemic in Venezuela was at its peak in November 2011, when Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was abducted from his house in Valencia. He was rescued after 72 hours in captivity. Two days ago, relatives of Tigers pitcher Brayan Villarreal were able to escape from a kidnapping attempt.
"We have to find a solution to this issue. Lack of security. Our lack of security, all citizens must be fully protected on the streets," Torrealba said.
Rafael Rojas Cremonesi is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less