GLENDALE, Ariz. — Trayce Thompson is a West Coast kid but he can’t help but occasionally think about Venezuela this spring.
The White Sox prospect spent a month last fall playing baseball in Venezuela, which has endured almost four weeks of civil unrest. Two of his best friends, Miguel Gonzalez and Carlos Sanchez, each of whom sits two stalls away in the White Sox clubhouse this spring, also call Venezuela home. So even though it’s far from where he was born, Thompson's paying closer attention to the events in Venezuela than others after a month of protests that have left 17 dead and 260 injured.
“To hear (Sanchez and Gonzalez) talk about and how they’re worried about their families, it's sad,” Thompson said. “Pray for the best and hope everything is as safe as possible.”
Whereas outfielder Avisail Garcia said his family was relatively safe (they live 240 miles from the capital Caracas) other baseball players have begun to feel the effects. On Saturday, Francisco Rodriguez told Milwaukee reporters it took four days for his security team to devise a way for him to leave the country and that he wasn’t able to get a visa issued until Friday. White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario also resides in Venezuela and is late getting to camp, but the team hasn’t said whether or not his delay is related to political events.
Thompson was in Venezuela months before the turmoil began. His baseball experience wasn’t quite what he hoped for, but he loved playing in front of the frenzied crowds that he compared to World Cup events on a smaller scale.
“Those 20,000 people made it about as loud as you could possibly think with all the drums and all the horns and noise,” Thompson said. “It was definitely crazy and a good experience to not let the crowd bother you. It’s all about winning down there. I’m happy I went down there even though it didn’t go as good for me as I hoped.”
Thompson didn’t witness any rallies or riots during his month stay from October to November. He felt safe.
But he also saw some of the poverty people live in when he visited minor-league facilities to practice.
“Just to see their minor leagues and the fields they play on and the complexes, it’s one of the most humbling experiences of my career and my life,” Thompson said. “Just to see the grind they go through to have an opportunity to play in America is unbelievable.”