Shortly after Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was elected as Nicaragua's new president, two major league gestures were made by the United States: President Bush lifted the economic embargo and the San Francisco Giants signed two Nicaraguan players.

The former has helped daily life in the Central American nation; the latter reflects a trend. Many major league clubs say they either have begun scouting there or are at least considering it while waiting for more signs of stability.

Scouts say they were hindered during the regime of Daniel Ortega because Nicaragua did not want its amateur players on professional U.S. teams, major league officials say it was impossible for players to acquire exit visas and fighting between Sandinistas and Contra rebels gave scouts a sense of danger.

"We didn't make a move over there until the changeover," said Dave Nahabedian, the Giants' director of minor league operations. "This was done because of the election. We had been hearing, through our contacts, that something was going to give over there, that there was going to be a change. That's when the situation came up, where we had a chance to be the first club in, so to speak, and maybe make a little bit of a splash."

The players signed by the Giants in May were brothers Donald and Harold Herdocia of Leon. The deal was arranged with the help of Santos Soto, a businessman in San Francisco and Nicaragua. Nahabedian said the players will begin their careers on the Giants' team next summer in the Dominican Republic.

"I think, whether it's Dominican or Nicaraguan {scouting}, there's a lot of recognition to major league clubs," Nahabedian said. "Just by getting the Giants' name in there, it will benefit us in the long run. Maybe more than just the ability of these guys, but for people there to recognize us. We're going to try and establish a consistent relationship there."

According to the commissioner's office, roughly 8 percent of present major league players come from Latin countries -- primarily the Dominican Republic.

Some clubs still believe it is "risky" or without sufficient reward. Many clubs have had to study up on politics.

"We're waiting for {Nicaragua} to stabilize more; the president was only recently inaugurated," Oakland A's General Manager Sandy Alderson said in May. "Various things are happening with the military factions. But at some point, when it's closer to normalcy, we can realistically get in there and look for a player."

"We have interest there and in Panama," said Eddie Kasko, the director of scouting for the Boston Red Sox. "We were just discussing that with our Latin supervisor. He is going under the impression that if things continue to clear up, which he will investigate, he will begin scouting in both countries."

"I've heard a general baseball rumor that clubs are considering it, because it's been untapped for so long," said Brian Sabean, the New York Yankees' director of scouting. "It's interesting. We've had preliminary discussions with our Latin {scouting} supervisor. It stands to reason there's got to be some kind of a pool of athletes down there. Now, whether they're baseball players, I don't think anybody's sure. But every country has athletes."

Teams typically send a scout who is either a native Nicaraguan or from another Latin country. The Atlanta Braves do not. Their Nicaraguan scout is Bill Clark, who has continued to wander the country with no apparent trepidation.

"Mr. Clark doesn't see the normal fears people see," said Paul Snyder, Atlanta's director of scouting. "He's kind of blind. He's a powerlifting champion, a former pro wrestler . . . a lot of things."

San Francisco sent a very recognizable Latin: Orlando Cepeda. The former Giants star now is a special assistant for player development, and he was given permission, just after the election, to try out the most highly regarded players on a goodwill tour.

"Orlando made us aware of the players who were ready," said Larry Harper, the Giants' director of scouting. "When the {Chamorro} government was in the transitional period, coming into power, {Latin scout} Nino Escalera went in there and saw them."

Harper said he expects the Giants to sign more players, although there still are some constraints. Nahabedian said permission still is needed to go from the Pacific side of the country to the Atlantic coast.

"From what I've heard, it has a chance to be like a Dominican Republic, an untapped resource," Harper said.

During the end of Ortega's presidency, the Montreal Expos signed a pitcher named Felix Moya and brought him to spring training. But Assistant Scouting Director Frank Wren said Moya had to get to neighboring El Salvador and live there six months for it to happen. One major league official said the Expos did not endear themselves to even the new government by using that procedure.

"We couldn't figure out how to get him out of {Nicaragua}," Wren said.

Ray Poitevint, now the Milwaukee Brewers' vice president of international scouting, found a way to sign the only two previous major leaguers from Nicaragua: Dennis Martinez, a veteran Montreal Expos pitcher, and David Green, a former Giants and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder. But Poitevint, after regular trips to Nicaragua, said he eventually had to back off.

"As the years went by, every time we'd go to Managua we'd find out there were more and more guns being carried," said Poitevint. "Troops {loyal to former totalitarian ruler Anastasio Somoza} would be much more armed.

"I had permission from the Sandinista to be protected, but I just didn't want to be protected. And my boss didn't want the Milwaukee ballclub to be responsible. I was trying to help these kids as much as finding talent.

"Now, I would be very positive that baseball will return to normal there. As soon as my general manager {Harry Dalton} gives me the green light, we'll start our programs there -- which I feel we can be doing right now."