There’s a trend in recent years to deduct ten years from one’s age in a dismissive, arrogant way, based perhaps on great leaps in health care and science. “40 is the new 30” or “60 is the new 50” is an egotistical way of making us feel younger in our age-obssessed, Dorian Gray navel-gazing society. Well, this week two 30-year-olds for the Caribes of Anzoátegui made a case for themselves as seasoned veterans. I’m not saying they play like 20-year-olds: they play like professionals and I hope we’ll see them in MLB this season.
The Caribes of Anzoátegui dominated the Venezuelan league from start to finish. I don’t believe there was a day in any of the three rounds of the 2014-15 championship that they were out of first place. Last year the Caribes finished second; this year they left no doubt, ousting last year’s bicampeones Magallanes by a count of 4-1 in the Final Series. Off to Puerto Rico, and the Serie del Caribe, for the boys from the Northeast coast.
Cuban catcher Felix Pérez got 40 of 50 possible votes to win the Final Series MVP award. He batted .368 with 8 RBI over the five games; ironically, he did not begin the season with Anzoategui, but was drafted for the finals after his team, the Leones of Caracas, were eliminated. His stats are no outlier, though, as Pérez was the league’s offensive player of the year for the regular (first round) season, too.
Like Caribe teammate Niuman Romero, Pérez is a Triple-A talent, who, at age 30 (like Romero) might still get a shot at the big time. Since 2010 the bats-left-throws-left outfielder has worked his way up the “A” chain with the Cincinnati organization, finishing last year at .280 for the AAA Louisville Bats. (great name for a team located near the Louisville slugger factory, no?)
Romero did a fantastic job as a non-traditional leadoff hitter for the Caribes. Though slow of foot, the gold-glove winning third baseman follows the lead of his now-retired mentor Bob Abreu–he’s very patient at the plate, takes a lot of pitches, and makes contact. Now with the Oakland A’s organization, maybe Nuiman will be the New Man and get a fair shot with a team that is cleaning house and was also the first proponent of “Money Ball,” which places great value on players like Romero.
Hey, the mayor’s happy. That would be former Major Leaguer Magglio Ordoñez, majority owner of the Caribes since 2013, who was also elected mayor of the coastal town of Juan Antonio Sotillo Municipality that year.
Magglio’s ties to the team are deep: he was LVBP MVP with the Caribes in 1996-97, and his #33 jersey has been retired by the team.
Ordoñez, on the LVBP website, was quick to thank the fans who “never surrendered” throughout the campaign. Magglio, who turned 41 on Wednesday, has taken flack from Venezuelan fans in general over the years for his support of late President Hugo Chávez–in fact he was roundly booed during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. But now his team will represent the country in San Juan, and hopefully everyone will rally behind him.
p.s. The Venezuela independence hero Jose Antonio Anzoátegui, for whom the Caribes’ state is named, died at age 30 in 1819. Like Romero and Pérez, he probably didn’t believe 30 was the new anything.