After a trying first half of the season, Carlos Gonzalez just wanted to relax with his family during the All-Star break in July. But as he sat around the pool at his house in Florida, the topic no Venezuelan can avoid kept coming up.
"Venezuelans, we only talk about politics now," the Colorado Rockies right fielder said a week or so later. "There doesn't go one day that we don't say anything about a political issue. That's it. If you see someone from Venezuela, it's the first thing that comes up."
The conversations aren't easy, because what has gone on in their homeland this year hasn't been easy. The marches and battles in the streets are a constant in their lives, no matter their views on the underlying issues and even though they have the safety of distance.
There's a physical distance, because they're here and the troubles are there. But mentally and emotionally, the troubles are never far away.
"It's really tough," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, who regularly visited Venezuela in past offseasons, said he won't be making the trip this winter.
"I love going there every offseason, but I always tell my wife that I would never take a chance," he said. "The way my family describes how the streets are, [it's like] they're living in a war. I won't go there."
For him and for so many other Venezuelans, it just adds to the sadness.
They can't go home.
There are 98 Venezuela-born players who have played in the major leagues this season, according to research through Baseball-Reference.com, and many more in the minor leagues. Some, like Gonzalez, have avoided publicly taking sides—"The country is completely apart, divided in two, and at the end of the day, we're baseball players," Gonzalez said. Others have come out against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.