Galvis concerned about unrest in Venezuela

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Freddy Galvis, chasing Ben Revere in a rundown, on unrest in Venezuela: 'It's really scary, man.'
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Freddy Galvis, chasing Ben Revere in a rundown, on unrest in Venezuela: 'It's really scary, man.'
Posted: February 25, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - It was shortly after 8 a.m. yesterday in the home clubhouse at Bright House Field.

Several players in the back end of the room were watching the Olympic ice hockey gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden. Another group was fixated on the highlights from the NFL's scouting combine on the other television screen.

Freddy Galvis was huddled in front of his locker stall, glued to his phone.

Two hours later, he was on the field, guzzling up ground balls with the precision of a high-end vacuum cleaner. He was working hard and smiling, too.

But when he's away from the field, Galvis can't help but think about what's happening back home. Ten people have died and more than 100 people have been injured in more than 2 weeks of antigovernment demonstrations in Venezuela.

"It's really scary, man," Galvis said.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on the political unrest.

"I'm watching with increasing concern," Kerry said. "The government's use of force and judicial intimidation against citizens and political figures, who are exercising a legitimate right to protest, is unacceptable and will only increase the likelihood of violence."

Galvis is watching, too. And he's more worried than most.

Galvis, a heavy frontrunner to win a bench job with the Phillies this spring, is just weeks away from what should be one of the happiest days of his life. In March, his wife, Anna, is scheduled to give birth to the couple's first child.

Galvis flashed his boyish smile at the thought of being a first-time father. The couple has already chosen a name for their little girl: Anastasia. But Galvis is also aware of the steps he must take to protect his family back home.

Galvis is having a house built in Venezuela, but it's no ordinary house. The home will be surrounded by a 16 1/2-foot fence; you won't even be able to see the front door. It's a necessary security measure.

"If my [wife] wants to go out with my little girl," Galvis explained, "she's going to have to take a guard with her."

Galvis is famous in Venezuela. And famous people have been regularly targeted by criminals within the country, well before the current political unrest.

In 2008, 2 weeks before spring training, then-Phillies prospect Carlos Carrasco returned to his family's Venezuelan home to find two criminals demanding money. One had a gun pointed at Carrasco's youngest sister.

The criminals left with $7,000 in cash, a flat-screen TV and computer equipment, among other items.

Just over 2 years ago, current Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos survived heavy gunfire between his kidnappers and the police. Ramos was held for 2 days by kidnappers.

Ramos was 24 and just coming off his second year in the big leagues, the same position as Galvis in Phillies camp this year.

"Every day is scary," Galvis said. "You don't ever know what's going to happen. When I go out with friends or family, I go out with a lot of them. I don't like to go out by myself or just with my [wife] . . . I stay home a lot."

The current situation in his home country has Galvis even more concerned.

Galvis' Twitter page (@tocofg13) has little baseball-related material lately, other than a background photo of him flying over Orlando Hudson to complete a doubleplay. Instead he has posted or retweeted photos of police brutality and stories of young people dying.

"People are fighting each other, killing each other," Galvis said. "The government is saying to kill people; it's really bad. I think all we want is peace. In Venezuela, the people are out on the street. They have the right to go out on the street and ask for what they want. But I know not everyone sees it like that. But when you have people in a country killing each other, it's really bad.

"You don't care about life? You kill people? It's sad. I go home and I watch TV. You see one more guy die, or one more girl die. You see the pictures. Police shooting a young guy - it's bad. I'm concerned."

Galvis has nearly 26,000 followers on Twitter. Many people back home idolize him for being able to excel at a game that allowed him to provide for his family. But some people are agitated, too. Galvis' father was approached last week by someone not happy with his son voicing an opinion from outside the country.

" 'Tell your son to stay here and fight for his country,' " Galvis said his father was told. "It was something like that. They almost fought. That's serious stuff, you have to be careful."

But Galvis has a lot of pride for his homeland, too. When the Phillies season is over, he will be raising a family there. Right now, he can only continue to stare at his phone and pray he will read a tweet with the news that the current political unrest has ended. Until then, Galvis will try to be a voice of hope.

"I can't keep my mouth shut and not say anything," Galvis said. "I have to say something. It's my country, my people over there. Everyone says you have to stay in line because you're famous. But if I'm a famous person I have to say something - I have my country to share with. I think we're a rich country, we can have a lot of stuff. And we have nothing. That's the truth. So I have to say something. It's really bad."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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