Tigers players pose for a group photo Friday with banners and signs supporting protesters of the Venezuelan government. (via Miguel Cabrera's Twitter account)
Lakeland, Fla. — They are concerned about the welfare of their families.
They’re worried the reaction to the protests in the streets will only get worse.
Bottom line: They care about their country.
On Friday morning, the 12 Venezuelans in the Tigers’ clubhouse posed for a photo of solidarity, asking the world to pray the violence taking place back home, along with what’s causing it, will soon end.
The group included such stars at Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez.
Some of the players held flags on which they printed “SOS Venezuela” or “Pray for Venezuela”
But there were also words in Spanish that conveyed the players’ feelings. Infielder Hernan Perez, for instance, held a sign that translated to, “We are far away, but we are not absent.”
Protests against the Venezuelan government have spread this week, to the point that many players, including Cabrera, have voiced their concern through Twitter over what’s taking place.
They know, though, that because of television blackouts back home, their loved ones might not entirely grasp the severity of what’s taking place.
“It’s hard to be away right now,” said Perez. “I don’t feel good, because all my family is in Venezuela. All we can do is show our support for the protests.”
As for the information blackout, Perez said, “I talked to my parents back home two days ago, and they said they don’t see anything on TV.”
The photo took place before a spring-training workout at Joker Marchant Stadium. It was soon tweeted by several players, including Cabrera.
Desde aquí apoyando VENEZUELA. pic.twitter.com/bc3RcqNtrh— Miguel Cabrera (@MiguelCabrera) February 21, 2014
Omar Vizquel was among those in the photo.
In his first year of coaching with the Tigers after a 24-year major-league career, and considered a possible future Hall of Famer, Vizquel has monitored the situation on the homefront as best he can.
Of his relatives in Venezuela, Vizquel said, “I’ve been talking to them every day. They broke down in tears every time.
“Obviously you can see how the tension has been building through the days. It’s pretty bad.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the pictures of Ukraine, of how things are going on in the streets. It’s the same thing in Venezuela. The students are out in the street and (the government) is using every force possible to get them out of there.
“They’re trying to scare people. They’re taking F-16’s and flying them around the city.
“We’ve never lived that history before,” said Vizquel, a baseball hero back home for the fine career he had as a shortstop. “We’ve been a country that’s been very friendly, very happy.
“The last four days, we have never seen a situation this bad.”
“I was concerned,” said Vizquel, “when (Hugo) Chavez overtook the presidency in 1992 or 1993, I think.
“I was there and I was seeing airplanes flying around the sky and throwing bombs down into the city. It felt really weird — like a movie.
“I think that’s what Venezuela is living right now. It’s a situation similar to that.”
Vizquel said the solidarity the Venezuelan-born Tigers displayed felt great.
“All we want to do is just pray for the safety of the citizens,” he said. “And obviously we don’t want the situation to escalate.
“As players, we (wanted) to get together because we have concerns for our family members that are there.
“If people can see we’re all together here, it’s a good message to send to our citizenship.”
With the television blackout, Twitter has been the lifeline to conditions at home for the Venezuelan players.
“We monitor all the time by Twitter,” said Vizquel. “They shut down a couple of television stations and the news is not coming out.
“Twitter, and this kind of social webs, is the only way we can see what’s going on.”
It might also be the only way their family members can see how the Tigers support them.
“We want to let the Venezuelan people know that we care,” said Vizquel. “We’re supporting freedom.
Whether the other Tigers were comfortable talking about it or not — most of them weren’t — the flags and banners they held conveyed the message for them.
“We’re are watching and very aware of what is going on,” said Vizquel. “It is very important to let them know that.”