My wife and I both love baseball, though I definitely pay closer attention to it than her. When we first got married back in 2008, there wasn’t much to bond over the Atlanta Braves because the team didn’t have many Venezuelan baseball players....or at least good Venezuelan baseball players. You could probably guess it or already know that my wife is from Barquisimeto (Bar-Ki-Si-Meh-Toh), Venezuela. She even covered the Cardenales de Lara baseball team for a radio segment.
At that time, there were big time MLB Venezuelan stars in 2008 like King Felix, Miguel Cabrera and Johan Santana, but no one on the Braves. Luckily, there was a Venezuelan player came up the ranks that started to make a name for himself in Martin Prado. It was fantastic because now we could really bond over the Braves in additional to baseball as a whole. I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t think the Braves had any confidence in Prado. The first three years in the league he mainly played at AAA and earned a few callups, but it wasn’t until 2008 where he produced 1.1 WAR that he started to earn that trust. Prado would go on to play all over the diamond and was one of the first true super utility players.
One memory that sticks out goes back to the 2010 season. I know it quite well cause the Braves had another veteran Venezuelan player on the squad in Omar Infante. My wife and I got to a game early to watch batting practice. It was sunny and scorching hot. We brought our Venezuelan flag to try to get noticed. Martin Prado was shagging fly balls in the outfield and we were yelling at the top of our lungs and waving the flag in order to get his attention. And hopefully to get a baseball. After awhile, I kinda gave up and started to watch batting practice. My wife screams at me that she got his attention and he even tossed a ball toward us. In that exact moment, the guy taking batting practice just ropes a liner in our direction. Someone yells and I turn to see a baseball traveling at some insane speed about to knock my head off. I just barely duck out of the way with my wife and by the time we look up, someone had taken the ball that Martin Prado had tossed to us. I did get the foul ball that almost killed me so I had that going for me. It’s been a hot minute so I don’t remember who was taking swings at that time. It was still cool that Prado acknowledged my wife and was kind enough to throw a ball our way. Eventually, we went to a baseball signing and got Omar Infante and Jair Jurrjens to sign that ball.
As a result, I’m definitely sad to see Martin Prado retire. I have a lot of fond memories of those Braves teams with Martin Prado. My wife and I were able to bond over the Braves because of him. He had a good career and I for one hope he sticks in baseball as a manager or something. The Braves have Ronald Acuña Jr and Ender Inciarte, both Venezuelan if you didn’t know, so that’s pretty awesome. Even Ozzie Albies is right next door to Venezuela as the island of Curaçao is just off the coast. It would be sweet if the Braves signed Bryan Acuña next year because the only notable prospect in the system that’s from Venezuela is William Contreras. That’s why I’m especially sad that the Braves lost all those International players like Kevin Maitan and Abrahan Gutierrez. They were from Venezuela.
If for no other reason than being selfish and wanting to continue to bond over Braves baseball, I hope the Braves beef up their International scouting and start bringing in more talent from Venezuela and other Latin American countries.