NBC Sports Chicago has an exclusive interview with Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. The topic: his home country of Venezuela, which is racked with turmoil, hunger, violence and could very well be on the brink of civil war as people have taken to the streets this week in an effort to force president Nicolás Maduro out of power.
As the interview reveals Contreras, like all players from Venezuela, is having an understandably difficult time focusing on the field as family and friends face peril and deprivation back home.
“When I’m at the ballpark I’m happy, I enjoy my teammates and every second here . . . But once you leave, everything that comes to my mind is Venezuela. How are the people doing there and when is going to be the end?”
We care most about what happens on the field, but every player is dealing with stuff off the field. Some stuff is far heavier than others.
On Sunday, we learned that while the Nationals would continue to pay their minor leaguers throughout the month of June, their weekly stipend would be lowered by 25 percent, from $400 to $300. In an incredible act of solidarity, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and his teammates put out a statement, saying they would be covering the missing $100 from the stipends.
After receiving some criticism, the Nationals reversed course, agreeing to pay their minor leaguers their full $400 weekly stipend.
Doolittle and co. have not withdrawn their generosity. On Wednesday, Doolittle released another statement, saying that he and his major league teammates would continue to offer financial assistance to Nationals minor leaguers through the non-profit organization More Than Baseball.
The full statement:
Washington Nationals players were excited to learn that our minor leaguers will continue receiving their full stipends. We are grateful that efforts have been made to restore their pay during these challenging times.
We remain committed to supporting them. Nationals players are partnering with More Than Baseball to contribute funds that will offer further assistance and financial support to any minor leaguers who were in the Nationals organization as of March 1.
We’ll continue to stand with them as we look forward to resuming our 2020 MLB season.
Kudos to Doolittle and the other Nationals continuing to offer a helping hand in a trying time. The players shouldn’t have to subsidize their employers’ labor expenses, but that is the world we live in today.