Players, coaches take one for Elian

Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2000

MIAMI -- Players and coaches around the majors skipped games Tuesday night, joining a work stoppage by Miami's Cuban-American community to protest Elian Gonzalez's removal from the home of his relatives.

Tampa Bay's Jose Canseco was the most prominent player to sit out, joining six Florida Marlins, two San Francisco Giants and New York Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez. Several coaches joined them.

Florida third baseman Mike Lowell, pitchers Alex Fernandez and Vladimir Nunez -- all of Cuban descent -- decided to sit out. Dominican teammates Antonio Alfonseca, Jesus Sanchez and Danny Bautista joined them in a show of support.

''There aren't many more important things in my life than this game tonight, but this is one of them,'' Florida manager John Boles said. ''I'm not saying what's right and wrong. The organization is not making a value judgment. The organization is merely being sensitive to its employees.

''If I didn't have to be here, I wouldn't. I've got a lot of Cuban friends and I know how deeply they feel about this.''

Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski said any of the club's front-office personnel, players and coaches wanting to support the protest would be excused with pay for the day.

In addition to the players, third base coach Fredi Gonzalez, infield coach Tony Taylor, bullpen catcher Luis Perez and assistant equipment manager Javier Castro accepted the offer. So did Cuban-American Hall of Famer Tony Perez, an assistant to Dombrowski.

After hearing what the Marlins were doing, Giants manager Dusty Baker called right-hander Livan Hernandez, catcher Bobby Estalella and administrative coach Carlos Alfonso, advising the three Cuban-Americans to take the day off. They obliged.

''You're talking about life and death situations that supersedes baseball,'' Baker said. ''A lot of us don't know the situation unless you live in Miami or you're from Miami. It's sad that politics have to go into baseball, but baseball is part of the world.''

Fernandez, Nunez, Sanchez, Alfonseca and Hernandez all were not scheduled to play Tuesday regardless of the work stoppage because it was not their turn to pitch.

Orlando Hernandez, Livan's brother, also asked to miss the game. The Yankees' right-hander worked out before the game and then watched New York's loss to Minnesota from the clubhouse.

Baker said he wasn't concerned as much for his players as he was for their family members, many of whom live in South Florida throughout the year.

That seemed to be the same sentiment in New York, where Ordonez and third base coach Cookie Rojas sat out Tuesday's game against Cincinnati.

Ordonez and Rojas arrived at Shea Stadium about 3 1/2 hours before gametime, met with general manager Steve Phillips and Bobby Valentine and left the park shortly thereafter.

The Mets backed the decision, and Phillips said both team members would be paid.

''Baseball should not be a political forum, but they felt they needed to support the community in which they live, and I support their decision,'' Phillips said.

Ordonez, a Gold Glover, and Rojas were both born in Cuba and live in Florida during the offseason.

Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who is Cuban, and Reds outfielder Alex Ochoa, whose parents were born there, were among the Cuban-Americans who played.

''The team needs me,'' Palmeiro said Monday. ''Unless I get a call from somebody really big, I'm playing. My responsibilities are to my family and my teammates. So as of right now, I'm in the lineup.''

Ochoa, who had only 28 at-bats this season, spent the day thinking about the situation. And while he fully supports the cause, Ochoa did not want to miss an opportunity to be in the starting lineup.

''It's an easier decision for an everyday player,'' Ochoa said. ''I didn't want to let the team down.''

The protest over Elian Gonzalez brought honking cars and waving Cuban flags to the streets of Miami's Little Havana, the same streets where fires and violence broke out Saturday after armed federal agents grabbed the 6-year-old Cuban boy in a pre-dawn raid.

The protests had little effect on the Marlins game or the Miami Heat's playoff game against Detroit.

Although about 125 people demonstrated near the Heat's arena at Freedom Tower, an historic landmark downtown. Some protesters were on their way to the game.

No protesters were outside the Marlins game. But some were in the dugout.

''I'm here, but it doesn't mean I feel any different than the other guys,'' pitcher Ricky Bones said. ''People express themselves differently.''

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us