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Francisco Cervelli leads ballplayers in joining Venezuelan protests

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Venezuela has nearly ground to a halt over the past several weeks as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have taken to the streets to demand his removal from power. They have good reason to protest too, as Maduro and his party have mounted a virtual coup, working to bypass the results of elections which gave his opponents a legislative majority and to fend off a referendum aimed at ousting Maduro himself from office.

All of this comes as the country finds itself in an economic crisis which has led to severe food and medicine shortages. Violent crime has spiraled out of control and blackouts have become a daily occurrence. The protests themselves have turned violent as well, with hundreds injured and thousands have been arrested. Maduro stands defiant, employing the military to hold on to power and crack down on his opponents.

While most of us don’t tend to think all that much about what happens in Venezuela, there are over 70 major league baseball players from the country and many more minor leaguers. They all have family and friends down there, many of them suffering and in danger. Yet they still have to find a way to go about their business every day, playing a game, while their country burns.

Many of them are not simply trying to put it out of their mind. As Stephen Nesbitt of the Post-Gazette reports, many are lending their support and joining in protests of Maduro and the deteriorating situation in Venezuela from afar. Leading the charge: Pittsburgh Pirate and Venezuela native Francisco Cervelli:

Before the Pirates played the Milwaukee Brewers on May 5, Cervelli spoke with Hernan Perez during batting practice. They started to hatch a plan. They got together after the game and began contacting some of the 70 other Venezuelans currently on active rosters. They called. They texted. They asked players to send videos voicing their support of the protesters.

Three days later, Cervelli posted a video on his Instagram page, which has more than 181,000 followers, that featured messages from 13 players from three teams. The caption, translated, read, “THAT’S ENOUGH! THE CRIES OF MILLIONS OF VOICES FOR VENEZUELA.”

Nesbitt talks to Cervelli and shares his words and those of other Venezuelan players who are not content to remain quiet and stick to baseball while their homeland is in crisis.

The article is definitely worth your time and their efforts are definitely worth our admiration.

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.