Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
2568x1445_WBC_ED_map_VEN (1)

A guide to Venezuela's baseball tradition

February 26, 2023

In Venezuela, people live and breathe baseball. It has been that way since the sport arrived in the country and began to take root in the start of the 20th century.

In 1941, baseball got a push toward establishing itself as the country’s pastime. In large part due to the feat of the “Heroes of '41,” the sport is part of the country’s DNA.

That year, the national team shocked the baseball world when it won the Amateur World Series championship played in Havana, Cuba, by taking down the heavily favored host nation, the reigning champions at the time. The championship was celebrated across all of Venezuela and was the spark that ignited the development of their professional league -- Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional (LVBP) -- that began play five years later.

Here’s a recap of the stars, moments, and other facts of baseball history in Venezuela:

WBSC Rank: 6th

Best World Baseball Classic Finish: 3rd, 2009

Ronald Acuña Jr.

Best players right now

Ronald Acuña Jr.

For the past few years, the Braves outfielder has established himself as the best representative of Venezuela in the Majors. Although an injury kept him out of the postseason that ended with Atlanta lifting the Commissioner's Trophy in 2021, Acuña is the face of the team, even more after the departure of Freddie Freeman in 2022.

After winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, he came very close to joining the exclusive 40-40 club in 2019, when he finished with 41 home runs and 37 stolen bases, also finishing fifth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting. Acuña is a three-time All-Star and has won three Silver Slugger Awards.

Jose Altuve

The veteran Astros second baseman is one of the most decorated Venezuelan players in history. He’s been part of two World Series champion teams, is an eight-time All-Star, Gold Glove winner, an ALCS MVP and just the second Venezuelan to win an MVP Award, receiving the honor in the American League in 2017.

Altuve has logged four seasons with 200 hits or more, and enters 2023 10th among Venezuelan-born players with 1,935 career hits.

Eugenio Suárez

The Mariners third baseman has become one of the most prolific sluggers in Venezuelan history, with his best showing coming in 2019, when he hit 49 homers to become the all-time single-season leader among Venezuelan players, surpassing Andrés Galarraga (47, 1996).

Since the 2018 season, Suárez has hit 160 home runs, the second most in MLB during that span, only behind Aaron Judge with 164. Now with 224 round-trippers in his career, Suárez is eighth on the all-time list of Venezuelan sluggers.

Luis Aparicio

Best Venezuelan players of all time

Luis Aparicio

Aparicio is the only Venezuelan-born player in the Hall of Fame. The Maracaibo native won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1956, finished with nine Gold Gloves, was part of 13 All-Star Games -- the most among Venezuelan players -- and won the World Series with the Orioles in 1966.

However, his most notable tool was his basestealing ability. He led the AL in steals for nine straight years, from his debut season with the White Sox in 1956 until 1964.

Miguel Cabrera

Not only is Cabrera one of the best players in Venezuelan history, but one of the best in baseball overall.

By reaching the 3,000-hit milestone at the beginning of the 2022 season, the Maracay native joined one of the most exclusive clubs in Major League Baseball. Only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodríguez and now Cabrera have at least 500 lifetime home runs and 3,000 hits.

Cabrera is a 12-time All-Star, with two AL Most Valuable Player Awards, four batting titles, seven Silver Slugger Awards and a batting Triple Crown, in addition to a World Series title with the Marlins in 2003. He also is a four-time LVBP champion with the Tigres de Aragua.

Johan Santana

The lefty was an elite starter in the mid-2000’s, when he became first Venezuelan to win the Cy Young Award.

Coincidentally, Venezuela is known as a baseball country, but Santana comes from a region where soccer is the main sport, therefore his influence has had a different impact from that of the rest of his countrymen.

Each year from 2003-08, “El Gocho” finished among the top seven in AL Cy Young Award balloting, and twice in that span, he placed in the top seven in AL MVP voting. He also finished in the top three for the Cy Young Award four times, earning the award twice (2004 and '06).

Injuries ultimately slowed Santana, but not before he secured his place in Mets history by throwing the franchise's first no-hitter in 2012.

David Concepción

For many Venezuelans, Concepción deserves to be alongside Aparicio as the second representative of the country in the Hall of Fame. The shortstop was a nine-time All-Star with five Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, and he was a key piece of the Big Red Machine that won two World Series. He was also the 1982 All-Star Game MVP.

Félix Hernández

Greatest moments in Venezuelan baseball

Aside from the success of the “Heroes del 41,” Venezuelan players’ accomplishments in MLB have given the country’s fanbase reason to celebrate throughout the years.

That was never more evident that when Cabrera and Altuve won their MVP Awards, as well as when Cabrera won the AL Triple Crown in 2012. The same can be said after Santana and Félix Hernández (2012) were named Cy Young Award winners, as well as when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 under manager Ozzie Guillén, who became the first Latin American skipper to guide his team to a title.

The most notable individual milestones that stand out are Wilson Álvarez’s no-hitter in 1991, Bobby Abreu becoming the Home Run Derby champion in 2005, Pablo Sandoval hitting three homers in Game 1 of the 2012 Fall Classic and Felix Hernández’s perfect game in 2012 -- in addition to a bitter-sweet moment, Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game in 2010.

Local league

The Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional was created in 1946. At the time, Cervecería Caracas, Magallanes, Sabios del Vargas y Patriotas de Venezuela were the original four teams.

Cervecería Caracas changed its name to Leones del Caracas in 1952; Caracas and Magallanes are the only two left from the original four.

Leones is the most successful club in league history with 21 championships. Magallanes is next with 13, and Aragua is third with 10.

SDC (2)
Estadio Jorge Luis García Carneiro (AP)/Estadio Monumental Simón Bolívar (CBPC)

Famous and notable stadiums

Estadio Universitario de Caracas is the oldest ballpark in LVBP after opening its doors in 1952. It’s home to Leones del Caracas and Tiburones de La Guaira. As part of Ciudad Universitaria de la Universidad Central de Venezuela, the stadium is also considered an Architectal World Heritage Site appointed by UNESCO in 2001.

The league stadium with the highest capacity is Luis Aparicio "El Grande" de Maracaibo, home to Águilas del Zulia, holding 23,500 spectators.

However, the ballparks that have made headlines recently are those that served as the stage for this year’s Caribbean Series, Jorge Luis García Carneiro de la La Guaira, with great views of the Caribbean Sea, and Estadio Monumental Simón Bolivar de La Rinconada, which holds up to 40,000 spectators.

The food

Arepa, along with its many fillings, is also an essential part of Venezuelan ballparks. Another mainstay in stadium fare is the “pepito” sandwich, which includes beef or chicken topped with sauces and condiments.

Although the tradition has been fading, years ago oranges were also served at ballparks in Venezuela.