They work on their baseball careers, but minds of 3 Venezuelan Kernels are back home

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CEDAR RAPIDS — While they struggle with improving their offensive and defensive games, learning English and general life in the low minor leagues, three members of the Cedar Rapids Kernels also deal with something completely out of their control.

What’s going on in their country.

Infielders Luis Arraez and Jermaine Palacios, and catcher Rainis Silva are from Venezuela, which has been in an official state of emergency because of extreme inflation that has created rampant food shortages in the socialist nation. Lower oil prices are the primary cause for the inflation, which has hit 180 percent.

The country just came out of self-imposed electricity rationing because of a severe drought that has only recently eased. That rationing had decreased the work week for government employees by a day and shifted the country’s time zone ahead by 30 minutes.

It’s not a good situation. For the 20-year-old Silva and 19-year-old Palacios and Arraez, it has become daily attempts at reaching relatives back home to make sure they are OK.

“We call all the time to make sure things are fine and stuff,” said Palacios, through teammate J.J. Fernandez, before Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss to Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“Our families are fine right now, but it is hard for them to find food,” Silva said. “It is hard to go out onto the street because there are a lot of killings, murders.”

The trio said the situation in their country is worse now than it was when they were at home during the offseason. They all left for the U.S. and spring training in March.

They blame the policies of President Nicolas Maduro for Venezuela’s issues and believe things will not get better until he leaves. A referendum to recall Madura has garnered two million signatures.

“No Maduro,” Arraez said, in English.

Because of widespread violence and political upheaval, most Major League Baseball clubs have closed their baseball academies in Venezuela. There were 20 at one point but now only four: run by the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

The number of professional baseball players from the country likely will continue to plummet.

“It is the government,” Silva said. “There is a lot of corruption.”

Wisconsin ran out to a 4-0 lead and held on to even this series at a game apiece. Starting pitcher Miles Nordgren (3-5) threw admirably, but suffered the loss, allowing seven hits and five runs (three earned) in seven-plus innings.

Nelson Molina went 3-for-3 with a walk for Cedar Rapids, which hosts Wisconsin again Wednesday night at 6:35. A two-run home run from Zander Wiel provided both Kernels runs.

Before Tuesday’s game, the Kernels and parent Minnesota Twins announced a pair of player moves.

Outfielder Austin Diemer was placed on the seven-day disabled list, while catcher Kevin Garcia was activated from the DL. Also, outfielder Brad Hartong was promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers and replaced on the active roster by outfieler Jaylin Davis, who hit seven home runs in his first 12 games this season for Rookie-level Elizabethton.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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