From Kevin Baxter's LA Times review of the book:
During the 1970s and early '80s, oil-rich Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. More than 75% of the population was middle class and rising, thanks in part to a government that spent lavishly, sending thousands of students abroad to study.
As a result, baseball was considered a game, not a career, and parents weren't beyond hiding a son's glove should he ever get the two confused. The major leagues paid the country little notice.
Then came Black Friday, Feb. 18, 1983 -- the bust in the book's subtitle -- when a steep drop in oil prices led to a devaluation of the bolivar. Before long, more than half of all Venezuelans were considered poor and baseball suddenly was seen as a way to escape poverty, just as it is in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America.
Timing was on Reiner's side then when, less than a year later, the longtime Venezuelan resident approached the Astros, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates with his idea of a Dominican-style training academy, where Venezuelan prospects could be scouted, signed and developed.
All three turned him down.
Reiner was undeterred, telling everyone that Venezuela could produce as many major leaguers in the next five years as it had in the last 40.
He was wrong, of course. It took eight years.
During that period, Reiner had persuaded new Houston General Manager Bill Wood to spend $60,000 to fund his proposed academy, and in August 1989 the Astros' Venezuelan facility opened in Valencia. And Reiner wasted little time proving his seemingly preposterous projections right: Eight of the first 14 players he signed went on to play in the majors, a ridiculously high success rate.
It's easy to play the "what if" game, but wow, that was a pretty big mistake by Galbreath and Co. How much would we be willing to pay for that kind of exclusive access to a prime talent market now? I guess the take-home lesson is that we need to be open to the long view about similar opportunities in the future.
If you're interested in reading more, this 2005 article from the SF Chronicle is pretty good.