photo: Kwang-Hyun Kim and John Mozeliak (St. Louis Cardinals)
Almost three weeks after spring training camps were closed across baseball, not all members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization have yet made it back to the comfort of their own homes. Those still displaced include 40-man roster pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim and a group of 17 Venezuelan-native minor leaguers.
As camp was closed, Kim was asked by the Cardinals to remain in the Jupiter area rather than risk returning to Korea. This week, the left-hander relocated to St. Louis but has additional travel hopes – to get home.
On Thursday, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak shared an update.
“I have been in discussions with him about possibly returning to South Korea – because it has opened up again – so he could visit his family,” he said. “We have not determined if that will happen or not because there is the risk that borders could be shut down and travel could get limited.
“So we are trying to navigate that as best we can. But clearly, this has not been easy for him and I think all of us can understand why,” Mozeliak said.
When minor league camp was also shuttered, 17 Venezuelan players were not allowed to re-enter their homeland. Instead, the Cardinals redirected them to their Boca Chica, Dominican Republic academy, a full-service facility designed to house as many as 70 players.
What was expected to be a short-term move to get the players closer to home has lengthened due to continued travel restrictions.
“The good news is that at our academy, we can give them their own private rooms – so to create some space, if you will, for each of them,” Mozeliak said. “They are medically checked each day. They are given meals and have the ability to walk around and get fresh air.”
As in the case of Kim, the players are safe but not completely comfortable.
“I think the scary part for them is that they would like to find a way to get back home,” Mozeliak said.
“Right now, (Cardinals international director) Luis Morales and his staff are looking at ways to do that. It is possible, but there is a very limited number of flights that are going from the DR to Venezuela. It is governmental or country-owned airlines, by my understanding, so getting a seat on that is not like going to your computer and purchasing a ticket.”
The organization has not given up on securing passage back to Venezuela for the 17 stranded players.
“We are certainly on it,” Mozeliak continued. “We want to make sure these guys are not put in some kind of penalty box, but at least they are able to eat, they have a healthy environment, and right now, a safe environment.”
While Mozeliak did not identify the stranded players by name, here are the 17 Venezuelans assigned to minor league camp when it closed.
Pitchers: Derian Gonzalez, Alvaro Seijas (40-man), Ricardo Sanchez (40-man), Llarvis Breto, Freddy Pacheco, Sebastian Tabata and Fabian Blanco
Catcher: Joyser Garcia
First base: Juan Yepez and Cristhian Longa
Infield: Jose Martinez, Rayder Ascanio, Edwin Figuera and Imeldo Diaz
Outfield: Andres Luna, Leandro Cedeno and Victor Garcia
Venezuelans still officially in big league camp include non-roster catchers Jose Godoy and Oscar Hernandez.
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