Tigers plan to maintain presence in Venezuela
The Tigers have built one of the strongest organizations of any Major League team in Venezuela, which has become the strength of their international scouting and player development. For now, that’s not going to change in light of recent shifts in U.S.-Venezuelan relations and a report out of Venezuela that the Mariners plan to close their Venezuelan academy.
The Tigers are one of a handful of teams with an academy in Venezuela and a team in the Venezuelan Summer League. The academy has helped them build a talent pipeline that has helped sign and develop such players as Bruce Rondon, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Angel Nesbitt, Dixon Machado and Hernan Perez.
They’ve done so while dealing with the challenges of working in a nation that has a tricky relationship with the United States. That relationship became testier with recent news that Venezuela has tightened visa restrictions on American citizens traveling into the country. A report Thursday from Venezuelan journalist Ignacio Serrano said an Astros scout was turned away at an airport.
Tigers international scouting director Tom Moore said they’re monitoring the situation, but that as long as the situation doesn’t deteriorate, they anticipate operating as is, from the academy to their scouting presence.
“You do have to think about other plans in case,” Moore acknowledged. “Obviously we try to be as prepared as we can. But it’s a country that’s very passionate about the game of baseball.”
The Tigers’ Venezuelan staff is unaffected by travel restrictions. Their Latin American operations director, Miguel Garcia, is a Venezuelan citizen who resides in Panama, so he’s able to travel back and forth without the restrictions that Americans now apparently face.
Because the Tigers have a Venezuelan academy and staff, they’ll still be able to scout players regardless. The question will be how many top officials can travel there to be part of the process. Moore said they still anticipate being able to travel to Venezuela; he still plans on making his regular travel there ahead of the international signing period and summer league.
The Mariners supposedly have not commented on the report about their academy, which would leave four teams in Venezuela for one small summer league. Any closing would be a concern for the Tigers as far as being able to have a competitive league for their prospects.