Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An American Household Name in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela — Squinting under the Caribbean sun, Buddy Bailey reminisced about a minor-league odyssey that began in the Appalachian League and took him to places like Durham, N.C., Kingsport, Tenn., and Pawtucket, R.I., far from the baseball diamonds of Venezuela.


But nowhere along this meandering career as a baseball manager has Mr. Bailey, 52, found success he has here.


His team, Tigres de Aragua, has won five championships this decade in Venezuela’s professional league, where the season runs from October to January. This record makes him a household name in this baseball-obsessed nation, worshiped by some, reviled by others but ignored by no one with a notion of the game.


Mr. Bailey’s fame also makes him among the rarest of persons here: an American who has attained public success and admiration in President Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. His feat stands out in a country where the government makes distancing itself from the United States and quarreling with Washington central features of its existence.


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