Many Americans believe that the final out of the World Series is the end of baseball for the year, but not for fans in the Caribbean.
Although the so-called "Hot Stove League," or the off-season wheeling-and-dealing of Major League Baseball, can be entertaining, during the next three months or so there will be plenty of action in leagues all across the Caribbean, especially in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the two biggest providers of foreign talent to organized baseball in the States.
For decades, these leagues have been among the most important sources of entertainment for sports fans in their respective countries, promoting baseball and making it a real national pastime in those nations.
The leagues also showcase many young ballplayers and provide them with their first experiences in highly competitive environments.
Beginning Oct. 12, the eight teams of Venezuela's Professional Baseball League will keep fans on their toes until the end of January. The league has produced many of the current Rockies players who come from Venezuela: Carlos Gonzalez, Jonathan Herrera, Edgmer Escalona and Jhoulys Chacin, among others.
Gonzalez will not play in Venezuela this season with his local ballclub, Aguilas del Zulia (Zulia Eagles).
After taking 481 at-bats in the Majors, plus an injury severely affecting his wrist, the Rockies outfielder must rest and won't be able to swing a bat until Nov. 1 at the earliest.
Herrera is also recovering from an injury caused by slamming his hand in a door, but team officials from Caribes de Anzoategui, the team Herrera plays for in his native country and the defending Venezuelan
League champions, say he will join the club by mid-November.
Winter league club officials are used to contending with the many limitations set by Major League organizations on its players. In the case of pitchers, there are stringent restrictions on innings to be pitched or the number of throws allowed. That's the case of righty Edgmer Escalona, who played with the Rockies for 14 games and a 1.75 ERA in 25.2 innings. He also expects to play by mid-November with the Leones del Caracas (Caracas Lions). "There will be restrictions set on him, but Edgmer will definitely play," says team President Luis Ávila.
The situation in the Dominican Republic is not very different, with players and team managers preparing for winter league that begins Oct. 14.
For the Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers), a club that enjoys one of the league's largest fan bases, preseason training is conducted at a dizzying pace. And yet they are waiting for two players who were involved with the Rockies during last season: Esmil Rogers and Ubaldo Jiménez.
Licey is dealing with the Rockies for permission for Rogers to take the mound in his native country.
As for Jimenez, now a member of the Cleveland Indians, the storyline is a bit different. His lack of participation in the Dominican League last year has been listed as one of the reasons why Jimenez was so inconsistent this year in the Majors. And Cleveland, an organization that has historically been reticent when it comes to letting players participate in the winter, has expressed interest in seeing Jimenez pitch in the DR.