On opening day this year, 28% of major league players and 47.8% of minor league players were born outside the United States. "Baseball is a global game," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. "There could be quite a sizable segment of our players who would be forced to prematurely cut off their careers, and that would be a detriment to the sport and all those who love the game of baseball."
The judiciary committee unanimously approved Sanchez's bill, which will soon go to the House floor and then the Senate. "The Senate has to have a bunch of sports fans, so I'm sure we'll find support," Sanchez said.
Smith gave the bill his wary backing. "One of my goals is that we diminish as much as possible the prospects for fraud," he said. "Few athletes have careers going longer than 10 years. . . . There aren't many Cal Ripkens. I'll be watching that."
Smith also has his eye on a bill that would create a new visa category for fashion models.
Supermodels, such as Brazil's Gisele Bundchen, can apply for visas for "aliens with extraordinary ability" by submitting documentation that attests to their skills. But in a real-life twist on the TV show "Beauty and the Geek," less established models must vie for the same visas as highly skilled workers, such as engineers and programmers.
Only 65,000 of those H-1B visas are issued new every year, and high-tech companies have lobbied Congress hard to get more, an unlikely prospect in an election year.
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) proposed a solution that could address Silicon Valley's hunger for skilled foreigners and benefit his city's fashion industry. His bill would create a new category for those models, probably limited to about 1,000 five-year visas, and would free up H-1B visas for more engineers.
Smith, 60, has reservations.
He said he could picture Weiner (who is single, handsome and 43) "in a posh downtown New York City hotel celebrating the passage of this bill surrounded by hundreds of energized, wildly ecstatic fashion models. And you know for a fact he's going to have an annual celebration. It's almost too much to bear."
Smith paused. "But not too much to oppose the bill."
Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report from Cincinnati.