ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina stepped onto the field at Stadium Nueva Esparta on Sunday night and was immediately swarmed by hundreds of media members behind home plate. Fans in attendance began to yell his name.
It's exactly the type of reaction Molina was hoping to receive.
"If being here as a big leaguer helps the youth because they see me on the field and they think they can do it, that's good," Molina said. "They see me as an example. We are here to support baseball, and it doesn't matter if you play in big leagues or the little leagues, I am here to show support for you."
Officially, the Puerto Rican catcher is in Venezuela as a special guest of former Major Leaguer Tony Alvarez, who is now the country's Minister of Sport.
"I'm here not just for Venezuela, but for all the Latinos participating in this event," Molina said. "This tournament helps players -- the fan support helps and the media coverage helps. I played a lot of years in the Winter Leagues and Caribbean Series and this helped me a lot, because I had the opportunity to play with a lot of good players at a young age."
Cardinals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 12 and their first workout is slated for Feb. 13.
"I just want to get better than last year and do my best," Molina said. "Those have always been my expectations."