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The Associated Press

Heredia, Chavez Say Winter Leagues Necessary For Latin Players To Achieve Success In U.S. Baseball


April 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Years ago, it was common for stars like Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Sammy Sosa and Roberto Alomar to play in winter leagues.

High salaries has caused many stars not to return home for winter ball, causing an attendance drop throughout the winter leagues in the Caribbean and Latin America.

"It's important to keep yourself in shape and not to be lazy in the winter," Felix Heredia, a Dominican reliever for Cincinnati and the Eastern Sugar Cane Cutters, said Sunday.

"You come here to take a spot from an American, so you can't be out of shape," added the 27-year-old left-hander, who was born in the southwestern Dominican town of Barahona but now resides in Miami.

Endy Chavez, a center fielder for Montreal and the Magallanes Navigators in Venezuela's winter league, agrees with Heredia about the importance of playing while the majors are off.

"You have to remain active in winter baseball," the 25-year-old Chavez said. "It has helped me a lot in my career."

He said the early end of Venezuela's season because of political instability hurt him this spring. Chavez realized at spring training he did not have the same agility after playing in only 24 games for the Navigators. He hit .253.

"Not playing enough in Venezuela affected me a bit in spring training because I felt lost handling the bat," he said.

In the first 16 games this season, he batted .281, with a home run and two steals.

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