Mets' Chavez a rock star in Venezuela

Mets' Chavez a rock star in Venezuela

Mets outfielder Endy Chavez is a rock star en Español.

In his home country of Venezuela, he is a hero. Fathers want their sons to grow up to be like him, and mothers want their daughters to date him.


He's 28 but looks 10 years younger, and he's mobbed everywhere he goes by fans of all ages. He has less than six years in the big leagues, but at times it feels as if he has been around forever. Not only is he known in the metropolises of Caracas and Valencia as one of the nicest guys around, he's also recognized as one of South America's top players.

But in the United States, he's barely known. Playing in New York might change that. Playing every day definitely will. That's the goal anyway.

"You do not dream of being a fourth outfielder or not playing everyday when you are a child," said the six-foot, 165-pound Chavez. "You want to play every day, and it was difficult to make the change to that role in the beginning. I took it hard, but I've adjusted. You have to be mentally prepared. I am mentally prepared now and will do my job when I get the chance."

So far, Chavez has seized the opportunity. This season, he is hitting .268 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 58 games for the Mets. He's made starts in all outfield spots this season, shining defensively and occasionally providing the spark the Mets need.

For now and the foreseeable future, he remains the super-sub who longs to be a superstar. He continues to impress.

"He's a terrific outfielder and a guy that if anybody goes down you can put him out there and it will not hurt you," Mets third base coach Manny Acta said.

What also helps the team is Chavez's attitude. He's polite and can come across as quiet, but is known to some as a riot. He's a leader when he has to be, a follower when the situation calls for it, but through it all, he remains a professional.

That could be part of the reason Venezuela is so enamored with him. It does not hurt that he's not shy about his love for his home country, either.

"The press in Venezuela has been really professional with me and treated me right," he said. "You do the job, and they love you. You don't, and they don't. That is how it is there. I do not know why people like me so much there. Maybe it is because I always play hard."

It also helps that he plays for the Magallanes Navegantes, arguably the most popular team in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues. What is the other most popular team? The Caracas Leones. The matchups between Magallanes and the Leones rival the Red Sox-Yankees series in intensity, press coverage and of course, fan participation.

"In Venezuela it's non-stop screaming at the games," Chavez said. "There is dancing, singing, yelling and having fun from the first pitch until the last one. Beer is thrown up in the air and it's crazy. Over there, it is like a party, but here in the United States it is totally different."

"The fans here support baseball and all sports, but it appears more formal," Chavez continued. "People here come to see the game and observe. You make a good play and they applaud, but it is quiet. Venezuela is not like that."

Chavez should know. He played for Venezuela in the 2006 Caribbean Series and for the country's team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. He hit a home run against Puerto Rico in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, re-establishing himself as a star in Latin America, sending the Venezuelan fans in attendance into a frenzy and creating a life-long memory along the way.

"For me, it was a beautiful experience. It was unique," he said. "I had the opportunity to represent my country, something I have never done like that. There is no comparison. To be a part of that team was an honor. To have that uniform on is something that I will never forget."

He'll also never forget his roots.

Chavez was born in Valencia in the state Carabobo, the locale known for producing Orioles catcher Raul Chavez, Mariners pitching phenom Felix Hernandez and outfielder Richard Hidalgo, among others. He shined as a youth and was signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1996. He spent four seasons in the organization before joining Kansas City via the Rule 5 Draft and making his big-league debut in 2001.

From 2002-04, he played for the Montreal Expos. He spent the 2005 campaign with Philadelphia and Washington. Chavez rejoined the Mets, signing a one-year deal during the winter. Call him an every-other-day player -- sometimes. He played every day with the Expos in 2003 and 2004.

"I'm glad I have another opportunity to play with the Mets because they have treated me well and I feel really comfortable here," Chavez said. "It is different from home, but I am happy. Here you have your future, your family, your career. Over there, you are not really playing for money, but for the pride. You play because people love you and you want to make them happy."

Spoken like a true rock star.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.