David Peralta had just given his consent to an interview and was planning on spending 20 minutes taking some hacks in the indoor batting cages first until he heard about what he was going to be asked.


And specifically, the political unrest in his native country that has turned deadly violent and led to a crumbling of social values spurred by a massive shortage of food, medicine and other necessary basic life elements.

“Oh man, I’ve got goose bumps! Look, I’ve got goose bumps right now!” the Diamondbacks right fielder said, stowing his bat and rubbing his forearms.

The extra batting practice could wait. Peralta wasn’t going anywhere. Not after being asked about the very nightmare that’s been quietly eating away at him for weeks now.

Trying to hit a 98 mph slider is difficult enough for a major-league hitter. Trying to remain focused during the course of an 162-game marathon season – all the while carrying on his self-appointed role as the Diamondbacks’ inspirational cheerleader and fun-loving motivator, – hits a man square in the gut when he’s constantly worried about the safety and health of his family and friends.

“It’s tough. It’s just so very tough,” Peralta says, motioning to his face as if he is wiping away tears that have yet to flow. “We have to concentrate so much and when we get here to the stadium, we have to try and stay focused to play well and perform the way you want and to help the team.

“But at the same time, it’s hard because your mind is on your family in Venezuela and the situation that Venezuelans are going through right now, it’s not easy on anybody. We like to say ‘It is what it is,’ but it’s not. It’s really bad. People are dying. They’re dying every day.”

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Much of the turmoil is happening in the capital city of Caracas, where anti-government protestors have been demanding the resignation of socialist President Nicolas Maduro and the release of jailed opposition leaders. They blame Maduro for failing to uphold democratic principles and for escalations of the highest murder and inflation rates in the entire world.

Maduro has sent in the Venezuelan military to try and maintain order, but every day the streets run red with blood instead.

According to a public opinion project survey conducted by Vanderbilt University, 80 percent of all Venezuelans are “very” or “partly” afraid of being murdered in the coming year. That fear has spurred a mass migration crisis, as Venezuelans flee to nearby countries such as Columbia, Brazil and Peru.

Things have gotten so bad, Peralta has to remind himself to quit always watching news updates and live video streams on his smartphone and tablet. It only makes things worse from 3,262 miles away.

“It’s just too much,” Peralta said. “I can’t even look at social media anymore. So what I do is I just call my family every day and make sure everybody is good. I call Mom and Dad, I check on my two older sisters, and I just pray, man. I just pray.”

Peralta’s parents, David Sr. and Celina, live in Valencia, Venezuela, which is located just 107 miles to the west of Caracas. His sisters, who are married with families of their own, also live in the area. The violence isn’t as bad in Valencia, but it’s still there and it’s very real.

There are still shootings and widespread lootings, along with military checkpoints and aggravating search and seizures. American corporations in the country’s third-largest city aren’t immune. General Motors recently was taken over and had its assets frozen before the company pulled out of Venezuela entirely.

But for the locals, it’s also the daily strife from shortages of such staples as bread, milk and diapers that are changing lives for the worse. That hits home for David Peralta, whose wife, Jordan, is expecting the couple’s first child in August.

They’d love to have David’s parents present for the birth of baby daughter Sofia, but new government rules concerning Venezuelan tourist visas to the U.S. might make that impossible.

“We’re hoping they can be there,” Peralta said. “… Obviously, it would be tremendously difficult to take the baby to see them in Venezuela. There’s no chance of getting medicine there right now and we’re just not going to take that chance.”

More than anything, Peralta wants to see his mother. Celina has only had glimpses of his major league career since he left his homeland in 2009 and went from a converted pitcher who used to flip hamburgers at a fast-food restaurant to Arizona’s regular No. 2 hitter in the lineup.

He is thinking of her especially this weekend at Chase Field against the Pirates when, like his Diamondbacks teammates, he dons a partially pink-themed uniform and swings a pink bat in honor of Mother’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness.

“It’s tough because everybody wants to spend time with their mom on Mother’s Day,” Peralta said. “But I’ve been playing baseball for a long time and every Mother’s Day I’m not with her because of that. It was the same way in the minor leagues. I call her all the time, though, every day. I call or text or go on FaceTime to check on her and my family and make sure everything is OK, you know?

“But it is tough. For me, it was hard to leave my country to come here and start from zero with nothing. I wish I could have my family here so it could be more like home, but it’s something you have to deal with. I went through a lot of hard situations to get where I am at and that situation in Venezuela is not going to stop me from doing what I love to do, which is play baseball.”

In a perfect world, Peralta would pay to move his family to Arizona or to Florida, where him and his wife have their primary residence. But he’s not exactly making Zack Greinke money. Peralta is on a one-year contract that pays him a little more than $500,000 before taxes.

“I would love to do that, trust me,” he said. “But the thing is, first, is the visas and all that stuff to bring them here. The other thing is, uh, money. It’s not easy.”

Peralta adds that his father, a manager who worked his way up at a Valencia tire factory, is a very proud man who might not care to leave Venezuela, even with its problems.

“He’s been working for a long time and for him to give up everything in Venezuela and start from zero here like me, he was like ‘Hey, you know what? I think I’ll stay here,’ ” Peralta said of his father.

Peralta gripped the pink bat in his locker and squeezed the handle as he imagined how things will eventually unfold back home. He is not alone, as there are nearly 100 Venezuelan-born players on active rosters throughout the major leagues.

One of them is Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, whose team wraps up its four-game series at Chase Field on Sunday. He, along with his Venezuelan-born teammate Felipe Rivera, met with Peralta and Diamondbacks outfielder Gregor Blanco, another fellow countryman, before Friday’s game here and filmed a short video about the protests back home.

“All the Venezuelan athletes in the world, we’ve got to make noise,” Cervelli told reporters Friday. “The people in my country are lonely. They are fighting and no one is helping. People born in Venezuela are killing their own people. It’s crazy. … It’s out of control.”

Other Venezuelan big leaguers have also expressed their anger and emotions through their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

There was this on Twitter recently from Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, formerly of the Diamondbacks: “Great game today, but pls keep praying for Venezuela we need the world to know what’s happening. #freedom #electionsnow #maduroout.”

There was this from Royals catcher Salvador Perez on an Instagram message written in Spanish: “I LOVE YOU my #venezuela. It hurts me to see all that is happening to you, it’s enough already with so much violence, hungry children, lack of jobs, GOD please take care of all those people!!!”

And this from Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos from his Instagram account: “I lived this situation personally last year when I went to play baseball. What Venezuelans live every day. Fear of insecurity that rob you or kill you, lack of essential products, lack of medicine. I want change of government because the one we have today in power has forgotten the people.”

Peralta can’t be sure of how much worse things in his homeland may or may not get. But he subscribes to a theory that many Venezuelans hold dear to their hearts – that there is always hope.

“It’s getting worse right now, no doubt about it,” he said. “But as a Venezuelan, we always have that hope. We have that hope in our mind that everything is going to get better. And we always pray and we ask for hope that one day, everything will be normal like it used to be.”

In the meantime, players like David Peralta of the Diamondbacks will man their position in the majors, dig their cleats into the batter’s box, and keep grinding with their heads down but their hearts held high. That’s easier said than done most days of the week.

Especially on Sunday – Mother’s Day of all days.

“It’s really bad, but at the same time, I have to keep my mind concentrating because the future is my future and the future is my family,” he said. “I have to do well, I have to play good and I need to help the team, too. No, it’s not easy.

“For me, I’ve learned to do that by as soon as I step in the clubhouse, I leave all my problems, my family problems, my whatever problems I have outside of baseball, I leave them out there. When I step into the clubhouse, I just focus on what I have to do to be good. That’s the way I do it.

“It’s not easy to say, but for me, it took me a lot of time, a long time, to do that.”

Reach McManaman at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.


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