On the third Wednesday in May, Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez was playing in Atlanta and eagerly awaiting his mother's flight to St. Louis the following day. Then he saw the news bulletin: The United States government was canceling commercial and cargo flights in and out of Venezuela, effective immediately.
"That means I don't know what's going to happen," Martinez said. "Because that's the way I send food back to Venezuela, to my family and to my kids, and I don't know what to do now. That means we cannot go back to Venezuela. It means my mom that is coming tomorrow cannot go to St. Louis to see me play."
It means, in short, that the concern and fear gripping MLB's Venezuelan population every waking hour this summer is only deepening.
Nightly, we watch a beautiful game in peaceful ballparks and break down everything from exit velocity to spin rates. But for 7.7 percent of the MLB Opening Day roster pool this year (68 of 882 players were Venezuela natives, the second-largest nationality of players born outside the United States), there is no quantifying the quiet desperation brought on by the political strife and humanitarian crisis that has brutalized their native country for the past several years and continues to worsen.
Demonstrators this spring took to the streets of Venezuela in support of opposition political leader Juan Guaido against President Nicolas Maduro, and a projection from the International Monetary Fund shows Venezuela's inflation rate will reach 10 million percent this year, which would be "one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in modern history," per the New York Times. Citizens are struggling for necessities: Children are malnourished and dying, and the public health care system has fallen apart.