Venezuelan Immigrants Play Ball in Peru | God's World News

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Venezuelan Immigrants Play Ball in Peru

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    Venezuelan migrant Rodrygo Gil bats during baseball practice in a public park on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. (AP/Martin Mejia)
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    Venezuelan children play baseball, front, while Peruvian children play soccer in a public field in Peru. (AP/Martin Mejia)
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    Young Venezuelan migrants each go for the ball in a practice baseball session. (AP/Martin Mejia)
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Crack. A bat slams a baseball to outfield in Lima, Peru. Children run the bases of a baseball diamond marked out on a soccer pitch. Immigrants, mainly Venezuelans, have opened five baseball academies in Peru’s capital.

Onlookers watch with confusion. “What is this sport?” a girl asks. Her mother answers, “It comes from another country.”

More than seven million Venezuelans have left their homeland during President Nicolás Maduro’s brutal 11-year presidency. Shortages of food, a lack of basic necessities, and declining living standards led to waves of protests in 2014 and 2017. More than 1.5 million Venezuelans fled to neighboring Peru. Most of them arrived just after 2017. At that time, Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said they were welcome and would be paid for their work.

The migrants brought with them a passion for baseball. Venezuela is a world powerhouse in the sport. It sends many players to U.S. Major League Baseball.

One baseball academy founded in Peru is the Astros. It’s named after the Houston Astros in Texas. Venezuelan Franklin López is the coach. He believes his team had to leave one field because neighbors didn’t want Venezuelans using it. The team found the field mired in mud every Tuesday and Thursday when they arrived to practice.

López doesn’t hide from his players that the road ahead of them will be bumpy. They’re embracing a sport that is almost unknown in Peru. The country is famous for cranking out renowned soccer players. Forty years ago, Peru also was a top contender in women’s volleyball.

“Here we improve by suffering,” the coach tells his players as they wipe sweat from their faces during a training session.

A league created in April allows children to be on a team for $24 per month. Roberto Sánchez is a baseball umpire.

“Let’s go my pitcher! Let’s go my catcher!” sing a group of mothers in support of their children playing on the field.

Sánchez recognizes baseball is a part of Venezuelan immigrants’ heritage. “Do you see these moms and dads?” he says as he puts his sunglasses on. “Without them, without their memories, without their joy . . . baseball would be finished.”

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you. — Leviticus 19:33-34

For more on baseball’s impact around the globe, see Baseball Takes Bhutan.