12/10/2002 4:06 pm ET
Games in Venezuela postponed
Winter League baseball a casualty of turmoil
By Alyson Footer and Ed Eagle / MLB.com
Major League prospects participating in the Venezuelan Winter League were given an early Christmas vacation this week.
According to an Associated Press report, the league began postponing games on Dec. 2. The country has been embroiled in political turmoil since a general opposition strike began against President Hugo Chavez nine days ago.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, the president of the Venezuela Professional Baseball League, said the season will resume "when conditions in the country permit it."
"You'll hear 'Play Ball!' only when we can guarantee the quality of the game and the safety of the players," Aveledo added.
The U.S. State Department recently issued a travel advisory suggesting Americans avoid travel to Venezuela in the wake of political tensions that have risen against Chavez.
Astros prospect Jason Lane was one American player who returned home when the strike began. According to the AP report, Florida pitcher Allen Levrault and Boston pitcher Derek Haselhoff also headed home.
Astros assistant general manager Tim Purpura said he is waiting to hear from special assistant to the GM Andres Reiner, who has been in correspondence with outfielder Kyle Logan and right-hander Doug Sessions regarding their pending returns to the United States.
"Once the government sends out an advistory to get out of the country, that's a pretty good indication that you want to take immediate action," Purpura said.
Seven Pittsburgh Pirates prospects were involved in the Venezuelan Winter League, four of whom are U.S. citizens. While the team has no control over players who participate in the Winter Leagues once they are given permission to do so, Pirates VP and baseball legal counsel Larry Silverman provided his prospects with information on the situation in Venezuela before any of them made commitments to play there.
"I put together a package of information with articles [and] directives and there were articles that the league provided telling them who to contact if there was trouble," said Silverman. "There were a lot of precautions taken to make sure that these players were safe, and, just as importantly, to make sure that they went in with their eyes open."
Silverman added that the club made sure to give them the necessary information in order for the individual players to make a "prudent decision" regarding playing in Venezuela in light of the country's current political turmoil.
While the Major League competition might resume in the future, Venezuela's "Parallel League" -- a league for minor leaguers -- has been shut down indefinitely.
Alyson Footer and Ed Eagle are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.