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Venezuelans in the big leagues; U.S. goodwill tour

Foreign-born talent in Major League Baseball fell on Opening Day this year to 239 players or 28%, compared with 246 players or 29% in 2007, when figured as the percentage of total players on the rosters and disabled lists. But Venezuela — whose growing contribution to the Major Leagues, deMiguel_cabreraspite political problems with Hugo Chavez and rising crime,  was highlighted in a Times story in January — raised its representation to 52 players from 50 last year. The country continued to gain ground on the leading contributor of players — the Dominican Republic, whose homegrown sons in uniform fell to 88 from 99 last year.

The Detroit Tigers have three of the six Venezuelans who made the All Star team last year: Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, who were picked to contend for the American League championship this year. But the team has started slowly this year with a record of 6-13 through Sunday.

Baseball with a Latin flavor

The U.S. Armed Forces' Southern Command based in Miami is sending a team of enlisted Military All-Stars on a goodwill tour from April 27 to May 7 to Panama, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. They will be managed by former L.A. Dodgers star Pedro Guerrero. The tour is sponsored by the U.S. State Department and Major League Baseball and will include free clinics for local youths. It's designed to win hearts and minds, much like Southcom's annual delegation of doctors, nurses and dentists, which visited Panama, Colombia and other countries last year.

By Chris Kraul, Bogota Bureau

Photo of Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera by Associated Press

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