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Several Astros players and staff members joined with other teams in posing with the Venezuela flag and signs that read “PAZ, TODOS UNIDOS, HERMANDAD” in Spanish in a plea for peace for a nation in crisis. The sign loosely translated in English reads “peace, together, brotherhood.”
Venezuela has seen an increase in violence in the last few weeks as the government has tried to subdue a protest movement. The Astros who posed together included native Venezuelans Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, Jesus Guzman, Cesar Izturis, David Martinez, Carlos Perez, Gregario Petit and Ronald Torreyes. Players from other nations, such as Carlos Corporan and Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico, also participated, along with bullpen Javier Bracamonte and bullpen assistant Carlos Munoz, both of whom are from Venezuela.
Bracamonte, a native of Caracas, spoke following the display of unity and explained to reporters how difficult things are in the country. Bracamonte, who was a victim of violence himself three years ago when he was held at gunpoint during a bank robbery in his home country, is hesitant to take his daughter to Venezuela to meet his family.
“I want my daughter to know when I came from and see the neighborhood where I grew up,” he said. “I have brothers and sisters that want to see my daughter, but I’m a little afraid.”
Bracamonte was in Venezuela a few months ago for winter ball with J.D. Martinez, who’s from Miami, and he could sense the tension.
“I have two friends of mine that died very young of heart attacks, and I think it’s because of the stress of the whole country,” he said. “[While in winter ball] we didn’t do anything outside the hotel and just go to the ballpark and that’s what it was. I went to see my family for a few days and they didn’t do anything outside. I just went to the ballpark to the hotel to the ballpark.”
“The good thing is they have security for the players to go pick them up and drop them off at the hotel, and a bunch of those guys live in the hotel that way they feel safe. … It’s been tough. You see all the video. Right now there’s no media covering it because they’re kicking people out. The only thing you see is by phone or Facebook or Twitter and you see a lot of people filming.”
Munoz, who’s from Maracaibo, said it’s difficult for his family in his homeland to find basic supplies like food and soap.
“I think we’ve gone back like 60, 70 years,” he said.
Astros prospect Delino DeShields Jr. didn’t make the MLB.com Top 100 prospect list, but he’s certainly one of the up-and-coming performers in Houston’s Minor League system following a terrific 2012 season in which he stole 101 bases combined between Lexington and Lancaster. He’s ranked as No. 7 among second base prospects in baseball.
DeShields, who could begin the season in Double-A Corpus Christi, spoke to MLB.com earlier this week about the upcoming season.
Q: What did you do during the off-season?
A: “I’ve just been working out and trying to enjoy my friends and family as much as I can before I have to go back out for camp. But nothing really specific, just trying to get better.”
Q: How important is this year in your development coming off a big year?
A: “It’s going to be a challenge for me, but I’m ready for it. I prepared myself really well. I’m just excited for what the year has to come. I don’t really know what’s going to happen; you never know what’s going to happen in baseball. My main thing is just to stay healthy and see what happens.”
Q: Do you expect to be in Corpus Christi to start the year?
A: “I have no idea, but I hope so. I’m just going to go to Spring Training and play my butt off and they’re going to make the decision at the end of the day. Hopefully I make the team. If not, I’m not going to be upset. I’m going to keep working and get there.”
Q: Will it be hard to live up to the numbers to put up last year?
A: “It’s going to be tough, but I’m not going to say I’m going to steal 100 bases again this upcoming year. I’m going to try to. I’m going to try to give the people what they want. As long as we win games and that stuff, that’s all that really matters to me.”
Q: With all the trades the Astros have made recently to jettison veteran players, are you able to see yourself reaching the Majors soon?
A: “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Like I said, I just have to stay healthy and can’t risk getting hurt and stay positive about everything. I can’t let people get in my head and continue doing what I’ve been doing. Hopefully I’ll be there at the end of the day.”