You could be a target of kidnappers or have to pay off smugglers
Over 27 percent of MLB players are Latino, and many were born in other countries like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. And they face a whole set of new problems when they make it and go back in the off-season to see their families.
“Some come from poor barrios and they’re seen with envy,” MLB investigator Joel Rengifo Añez explained to The Washington Post. “Why? Because they have a car with the big stereo system and so those who cannot get ahead see them with envy.”
And in extreme cases, that can mean being kidnapped. That’s what happened to native Venezuelan Wilson Ramos, then with the Washington Nationals. The catcher was kidnapped in 2011 and was rescued after 50 hours. Pretty scary stuff. And in 2005, the mother of Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina was kidnapped for five months in Venezuela before being rescued. The kidnappers demanded $6 million in ransom. Maura Villarreal said, “The most hurtful thing was having to bear them saying that my son didn’t love me because he didn’t pay.”
That’s not the only issue international players can face. If they’re from Cuba and want to make their way to the United States for baseball, they might have to pay smugglers for the privilege. ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that future stars have “come to rely on a clandestine group of operatives” to get them out of Cuba and in front of MLB scouts. Take the case of Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig. His Cuban escape was funded by a Miami man named Raul Pacheco, who Los Angeles magazine describes as a “small-time crook.” The magazine said that “Pacheco had allegedly agreed to pay the smugglers $250,000 to get Puig out of Cuba. Puig, after signing a contract, would owe 20 percent of his future earnings to Pacheco.” And people think Scott Boras is ruthless.