Though Venezuela is sandwiched between two soccer-mad countries—Brazil and Colombia—baseball is its national pastime and passion. Yet until the late 1980s few professional teams actively scouted and developed players there. This book is about the man who changed all that and brought Venezuela into Major League Baseball in a major way.
While other teams were looking to the Dominican Republic for new talent, Houston Astros' scout Andrés Reiner saw an untapped niche in Venezuela. Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom recounts how, over the next fifteen years, Reiner signed nearly one hundred players, nineteen of whom reached the majors. The stories of these players—among them Bobby Abreu, Johán Santana, Melvin Mora, Carlos Guillén, and Freddy García—are interwoven with Reiner’s own, together creating a fascinating portrait of a curious character in the annals of sports and a richly textured picture of the opening of Venezuela as baseball’s new frontier. Countless interviews broaden and deepen the story’s insights into how the scouting system works, how Reiner worked within it, and how his efforts have affected the sport of baseball in Venezuela and the significance of Venezuela in the world of Major League Baseball.
Milton H. Jamail is the author of Full Count: Inside Cuban Baseball. He has written on Latin American baseball for Baseball America, USA Today Sports Weekly, the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and the Houston Chronicle.
“The story of Andrés Reiner, a latter-day Branch Rickey tirelessly seeking to unravel the mysteries of baseball scouting and development, is an absorbing and important tale. Milton Jamail exhibits the same exemplary attributes of his subject: passion, compassion, intelligence and humor, and provides great insight into Hispanic culture. Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom is a masterful addition to baseball literature about the least understood and most vital aspect of building winning baseball organizations.”—Lee Lowenfish, author of Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman
“No one understands the intricacies of the international baseball scene better than Milton Jamail. He balances a genuine understanding and appreciation of foreign cultures with the same acumen when it comes to the business of professional baseball teams finding and acquiring talent. The story of Venezuelan baseball is as rich as it is complicated, and Jamail does a great job of presenting the story from every angle.”—Will Lingo, editor in chief of Baseball America
“If you know nothing about Andrés Reiner—and chances are you don’t—know this: Without him, the best left-handed pitcher in baseball today would probably still be hidden high in the Venezuelan Andes. . . . It’s appropriate, then, that Milton H. Jamail’s long-overdue study . . . has Reiner not only in its title, but at its core as well.”—Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
“The most welcomed arrival this spring . . . . It’s obvious once you start reading that Jamail . . . did indeed work on this book for almost 20 years. It’s thorough, includes interviews with dozens of sources and is . . . . extremely readable, with lots of stories about traveling with scouts to the backcountry of South America’s baseball-loving country.”—David King, San Antonio Express-News
“An astoundingly good book on scouting and Venezuelan baseball.”—Tim Marchman, New York Sun