Sandy David León Lopez, known to baseball fans simply as Sandy Leon, is one of a handful of Red Sox players to boycott tomorrow's White House ceremony honoring the 2018 World Series champions.

What a wasted opportunity.

Finding biographical information about the towering backup catcher is difficult at best. Most pages, including Wikipedia, offer little more than baseball statistics. What I do know about Leon is that he hails from Maracaibo, Venezuela. He was born in 1989 when things were quite a bit better in Venezuela than they are currently.

Maracaibo is Venezuela's second largest city. The population tops 1.5 million people. It is a modern city that until recently had a vigorous economy based on oil drilling and farming. The city also boasts a rich culture and a history that includes stories of pirate conquests and the like.

Maracaibo also has among the world's highest per person ratio of Huntington's disease, a debilitating brain disease that affects 700 of every 100,000 residents. There is no cure.

Venezuela's economy has collapsed under the weight of corrupt socialist dictators. The government has been unable and unwilling to meet the basic human needs of its citizens. Jobs are scarce and many people have been forced to forage for food in trash cans and anywhere they can find it. Medical care is strictly limited.

The Trump Administration has vocalized its strong support for the Venezuelan people and a recent uprising by opposition forces. The Administration has also warned Cuba to keep its distance.

The Venezuelan people are badly in need and Sandy Leon could be a catalyst in that effort by meeting with President Trump, who has been sympathetic to the cause of the Venezuelan people. By visiting the White House, Leon would put a face on the tragedy and his appearance could serve to bolster morale back at home.

Manager Alex Cora could also impact the discussion in Congress about providing aid to his hurricane-ravaged homeland of Puerto Rico, but has likewise chosen to boycott the White House ceremony.

Sports figures have a unique opportunity to gain access to important people and the media. Statements from Leon and Cora about the crisis back home would get the attention of the press and could make a dramatic difference. Instead, for some foolish political reason still lost on me, they will not do that.

What a wasted opportunity.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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