Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor helps fund visas for Venezuela
There was a moment after the Latin America regional tournament where Venezuela’s coaches and players weren’t sure if they’d be able to play in the Little League World Series. Venezuela won the regional championship game against David, Panama, but paying for visas to travel to the United States became a problem.
Paying for the visas was a problem for Maracaibo’s players. That’s when an unlikely person stepped up and helped out the Venezuelan players.
Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, a native of Maracaibo, helped pay for the visas for the team to travel to South Williamsport and play in the World Series.
“I always watch those games, they are fun,” Odor told The Dallas Morning News. “I wanted to help the kids and do what I can. I represented my country a couple of times (in international tournaments) and I know what that means.”
According to The Dallas Morning News, Odor paid about $3,000 for the players and coaches and also sent them each an autographed hat.
Odor is no stranger to helping in youth baseball either. Two years ago, Odor, former Williamsport Crosscutter Freddy Galvis and Jhoulys Chacin helped fund the Venezuela team to help them get to the United States after qualifying.
“Anything to help the kids play,” Odor tweeted last Tuesday with a clapping hands emoji and the Venezuelan flag after the Rangers’ Twitter account noted what he did.
It was a significant gesture which wasn’t lost on the team. They are beyond grateful for what Odor did to help them.
“We really appreciate the help of Rougned Odor to help the team get here,” Venezuela manager Luis Gonzalez said through an interpreter after defeating Australia, 2-0, in an elimination game Saturday. “We really appreciate the help he gave us this year.”
With Odor’s help, not only are the Latin America champs playing in the Series, but they’ll be able to meet Major League players today prior to the Little League Classic. They’ll also be in attendance at Bowman Field for the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.
“We’re excited to meet MLB players and it’s felt like a dream come true for them,” Gonzalez said.
With how big baseball is in Venezuela, it’s something the players are all excited about the chance to attend the game and meet players they watch on television and idolize.
“I’m happy to be able to meet a lot of MLB players,” Venezuela pitcher Randy Soto said.
“I’m going to meet a lot of MLB players from Venezuela and maybe some other players that I’ve seen on TV,” Venezuela center fielder Ibrahim Ruiz said.
Ever since getting to the World Series, Venezuela’s players have taken in everything they can and have soaked in the moments. From the large crowd at Saturday’s game cheering on the kids to taking part in a postgame moment with Australia to share time with them.
“It was a very emotional moment and I’m going to take home a lot of memories from this World Series because it’s my first trip here and I’m going to get a lot of memories I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” Ruiz said of the crowd cheering for them.
Even Australia manager Jason Choat noted how nice it was to have Venezuela join them in the outfield for a special moment following Saturday’s game.
“That was pretty good. I guess it represents what Little League’s all about and message we’ve had from Little League here is it’s not all about winning. Obviously you want to win and that’s the objective, but if you’re talking about sportsmanship, what they showed today coming out for a second time to shake hands with the boys, that was fantastic,” Jason Choat said. “That sets the standard really.”
Whether or not Venezuela makes a run through the elimination bracket and gets to the championship game or gets eliminated from title contention, the Venezuela kids are happy for everything they’ve experienced so far this summer.
Having Odor fund the team’s visas to get the World Series and experience everything they have is something they’ll never forget, and that’s evident by the players’ smiles during and after the game.