The Seattle Mariners will close their academy in Venezeula due to political and social unrest in the country, Ignacio Serrano of ESPN Deportes reports.
Two Venezuelan Summer League sources told Serrano that the Mariners will combine their operations in the country with their academy in the Dominican Republic. One official also expressed concern that the future of the league could be in jeopardy.
Venezuela, like Russia, is in a state of economic crisis due to declining oil prices. The country is experiencing crippling shortages of basic goods and one Mariners official told Serrano that is difficult to find enough food to feed the players at the academy.
The country's president, Nicolas Maduro, claims there is a conspiracy backed by the United States to push him out of office. Maduro announced plans last week to drastically reduce the size of the staff at the U.S. embassy in Caracas. Last month, a 14-year-old boy was killed by police at an anti-government protest, sparking further demonstrations.
The Mariners are one of five teams that operate academies in Venezuela, down from 13 in 2006. Players who sign as amateur free agents, usually between the ages of 16 and 19, live and train at the academies. Current Mariners pitchers Yoervis Medina, Erasmo Ramirez and Mayckol Guaipe all came through Seattle's Venezuelan academy.
The academies are similar to the ones operated by all 30 MLB franchises in the Dominican Republic, but the Dominican Summer League is known for having a higher level of play than its Venezuelan counterpart.
- Dan Gartland