Suarez: A love affair with native Venezuela

CINCINNATI — When Eugenio Suarez walks to the batter’s box, before he makes beautiful music with his baseball bat, a beautiful song wafts from the Great American Ball Park sound system.

The song is ‘Mis Ilusilone,’ a lovely tribute to Venezuela, Suarez’s home country, a country torn by strife and economic crisis.

The song, played every game before his first at bat, is Suarez’s walk-up song, a haunting tribute to Venezuela’s beauty, flowers, landscape and the people. It is surprising it doesn’t bring tears to his eyes. Sometimes it does.

“I love my country,” he said. “As everybody knows, though, Venezuela is in trouble right now,” he said. “It is not easy to be there. I don’t want to comment too much because my father is there and I don’t want to get him in trouble.”

THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM in Venezuela is President Nicolas Maduro, who is leading the country toward a dictatorship while the people try to get rid of him. There are nearly daily street demonstrations in Caracas, the nation’s capital, many of them violent.

He claims he is for the poor, but most of the 31 million people in the country suffer from hunger, lack of medicine and lack of jobs, even though the Venezuelan oil field reserves are some of the richest in the world. Maduro claims Venezuela’s problems come from a United States conspiracy to rid the country of him.

IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE THAT SUAREZ doesn’t want to talk too deeply about poliitics. Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera, a Venezuelan, denounced Maduro and his family back in Venezuela was threatened.

“I have my family there, everybody is there,” he said. “I try to go there for Christmas to enjoy them, maybe for a month. It’s so hard, it’s hard to know that if you go there you might not be able to get back,” he said.

“But, you know, I love my country and I want to go there so bad because my family is over there,” he said.

Of his walk-up song, he said, “It is a couple of guys singing about the situation there. The song says for me how much I love my country. I love Venezuela and I hope that one day that situation changes, that’s my one big wish.”

IN THE MEANTIME, THE 26-year-old third baseman from Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, continues to get better and better, both at third base and at the plate.

He has been tearing through August on the highest of notes, just coming off a 10-game hitting streak. He is hitting .329 for 20 games this month with eight home runs and 19 RBI. For the year he is hitting .270 with 24 home runs, 23 doubles and 70 RBI, third most on the team.

He is one of the team’s best bargains after the Reds acquired him in the winter of 2014 from the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Alfred Simon. At $595,000 he barely makes more than the major league minimum and the Reds have him under contract through 2021.

THE REDS HAVE AVOIDED A catcher crisis. Stuart Turner is back from his paternity leave to back-up Tucker Barnhart. While Turner was gone, the Reds called up Chad Wallach and he made his major league debut catching rookie Tyler Mahle Sunday.

The Reds dispatched Wallach back to Class AAA Louisville after the game, but Barnhart is next on the paternity leave list and probably will depart during the current New York Mets series. And Wallach will return.

“As long as the two we have with us stay healthy we’re in pretty good shape,” said manager Bryan Price. “Chad should be back with us at some point in time during this Mets series.”

JUST AS HE DID THE SECOND half of last year, after a fast early start left fielder Adam Duvall has fallen upon hard times. In August it seems to be home run or nothing — seven homers and 14.

Since August 10 he is 13 for 71 (.183) with 18 strikeouts. Manager Bryan Price, though, is unconcerned.

“I saw very good strike zone command from Adam in the first half,” said Price. “As a lot of guys do, you tend to expand the strike zone to get out of a slump, or whatever. That was one of his big areas of improvement in the first half.

“It’ll play itself out, I know that,” Price added. “It doesn’t affect any other part of his game and he still plays great defense. He is good on the bases and plays hard. I’m confident the last five weeks of the season we’ll see a better version.”

hander’s baseball glove on a shelf behind manager Bryan Price’s desk.

“It is a gift from (assistant pitching coach) Ted Power,” he said. “A friend of his had a bunch of old baseball stuff his wife wanted him to get rid of so he gave some of it to Teddy. And he gave me this glove.”

It is an Andy Pafko model. Andy Pafko? He played outfield from 1943 through 1959 for the Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves.

“I might wear it to play catch,” said Price, examining the small mitt that barely covered his han making one wonder how outfielders of that time every made great running catches.

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