Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom is the story of former Astros instructor, scout and special assistant Andres Reiner. The son of a Hungarian refugee whose family eventually settled in Venezuela, Reiner picks up the sport as a child and eventually becomes a Latin American baseball impresario.
The key event in the book is Reiner’s 1989 establishment of a Venezuelan baseball academy sponsored by the Houston Astros. In addition to Reiner’s story, background is also included on key Astros scouts and instructors in Venezuela. The book follows the successes and failures of prospects recruited by Reiner and his scouts, including such notables as Richard Hidalgo, Bobby Abreu and Johan Santana. The interaction with Houston’s home office and minor league system provides further background on the careers of the Venezuelan staff and their prospects.
The author has traveled extensively in Latin America, sometimes accompanying the Astros’ staff on scouting trips in Venezuela, as well as in Colombia and Central America. His first-hand accounts add a lot to the book. Jamail seems to have great empathy for Reiner and his staff and recruits.
One criticism is that there are many grammatical errors in the book; they seem to increase in frequency as the book goes along.
I found Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom to be very worthwhile. It should be especially appealing to SABR members with an interest in Latin American baseball and to Houston Astros fans. The book also has a Central Texas flavor as the author lives in Austin and several discussions/interviews took place at Dell Diamond.
Here are the key statistics:
Book: Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom
Author: Milton H. Jamail
Author Credentials: Full Count: Inside Cuban Baseball, a book about post revolutionary Cuban baseball published in 2000; Latin American baseball articles for Baseball America, USA Today Sports Weekly, Texas Monthly and other pubs
Published: 2008, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 978-0-8032-1571-9
Length: 257 pages
Price: Retail list – $19.95; Online: new from $7.50 + ship.