Federation Focus: Venezuela - "When it comes to baseball, the passion is extreme"

Federation Focus: Venezuela - "When it comes to baseball, the passion is extreme"
The WBSC spoke with the Treasurer of the Baseball Federation of Venezuela (Fevebeisbol), Oscar Izaguirre to hear the story of the federation and it's secret to success, as well as finding out how it is coping in this year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Baseball Federation of Venezuela (Fevebeisbol) has organized baseball activity since 1927 but it's rarely been as complicated as it is today, in 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic affecting many of its activities.

"We could only organize the U-18 National Championship," said Treasurer Oscar Izaguirre. "The Federation had to suspend all of the activity in March. At the moment of the COVID-19 outbreak, that forced a quarantine, the affiliated leagues and associations were organizing their tournaments."

Izaguirre, who is an international scorer, serves on the Fevebeisbol Board chaired by President Aracelis Leon. Angel Delgado is the Secretary-General of a federation, which is one of the most active federations in Latin America.

With the Venezuela men's national team (who finished seventh at last year's WBSC Premier12) ranked eighth in the world and the women's national team (who finished fifth at the 2018 WBSC Women's Baseball World Cup) ranked fourth, Venezuela is one of the strongest baseball countries in the world. With regular top-10 success on the international stage, the popularity of baseball in the country shows no sign of decreasing, especially with a strong player base at youth level.

"I have a lot of respect for the other sports that are popular in our country, but I have no doubt about the fact that baseball is the number one sport," Izaguirre said. "We have over 50,000 kids playing baseball, many more than any other sport. Venezuela is, after the United States and the Dominican Republic, the country that contributes with more players to Major League Baseball (MLB) and our coaches and umpires are rated amongst the best in the world. Venezuela has a lot of passion for sports and the country stands for our National Teams. When it comes down to baseball, the passion is extreme. We have a slogan that defines our brand, the baseball National Team is 'la que nos vuelve locos, the one that drives us crazy'."

Development activities and staging regular national tournaments is the key to any sustained success on the international stage, according to Izaguirre. "We organize every year eight different National Championships for kids and teenagers. We range from kids under the age of four to the U-18 category. We also organize two Women's Baseball U-19 tournaments and three events for seniors: over the age of 40, 50 and 60. The final selection of each State comes out of a championship that allows up to 24 participating teams.

"Our major development activity is the Sembrando Beisbol programme. The goal is to help and support clubs at the grassroots level with gear, such as balls and bats. Through Sembrando Beisbol we also implement educational courses for coaches, umpires, scorers. This programme also has fun activities to support coaches, umpires and scorers during these tough times."

In the meantime, Izaguirre confirmed that Fevebeisbol's relationship with the professional league (LVBP, Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional) is also improving. "It's a friendly one," Izaguirre said. "We were invited to the annual convention in 2018 and 2019 and we had a right to speak. Former LVBP President Juan José Ávila and a representative of the clubs were part of our delegation at the WBSC Premier12 2019."

The game of baseball was introduced to Venezuela by students who had attended North American universities in the early 1890s. In May 1895 four brothers, Amenodoro, Augusto, Emilio, and Gustavo Franklin, established the first organized team, the Caracas Baseball Club. They attracted people to play by placing an advert in the daily newspaper El Tiempo stating that the game was a different kind of chess game.

Baseball became more popular at the end of the 1910s thanks to Americans working in the exploding oil industry.

As we already know, Fevebeisbol was founded in 1927. The definitive explosion came when Venezuela beat the hosts Cuba, on the back of another superb performance from legendary pitcher Daniel El Chino Canonico, to win the Amateur World Series 1941. Canonico defeated another star, Conrado Marrero, at the end of an unforgettable duel. The World Champions are down in history as Los Héroes del '41.

Venezuela won the Amateur World Series, later renamed the IBAF World Cup, also in 1944 and 1945. They finished second twice (1951, 1953) and claimed four bronze medals (1942, 1950, 1961 and 1973).

Venezuela also won the first WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup in 2012.