HOUSTON -- Andres Reiner, the legendary scout who helped the Astros blaze a trail into Venezuela in the 1980s, passed away Wednesday night, the team said in a statement Thursday. He was 80 years old.
Reiner, who also spent eight years as a special assistant to former Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker, led the charge when Houston became the first team to open an academy in Venezuela. The Astros' Venezuelan academy opened in 1989 and produced a handful of Major Leaguers, including Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu and Freddy Garcia, before it closed in 2009 for political reasons.
"Andres Reiner was more than just a visionary in the world of baseball," said Astros coordinator of international development Carlos Alfonso, who worked with Reiner for several years. "He was a caring human being that made such an impact, not only with the number of players signed and developed by him, but also with the men and women that he touched in all walks of life. There are scouts, coaches, managers, general managers, athletic trainers and administrators to this day that are practicing things that Andres taught us. We have been blessed to have worked alongside him. My condolences to Carmina, his children and grandchildren."
Reiner, who left the Astros in August 2005, signed Santana, Abreu, Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora and Richard Hidalgo, all of whom had success in the big leagues.
According the 2008 book "Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom: Andres Reiner and Scouting on the New Frontier" by Milton H. Jamail, Reiner and his staff signed 77 Venezuelans between January 1990 and the end of 2000. By September 2007, 19 of those players (25 percent) played in the Major Leagues, including five who represented Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.