Cuban big leaguers react to Guillen's apology

Cuban big leaguers react to Guillen's apology

Cuban big leaguers react to Guillen's apology
It's understandable that some Cuban-born players, or those of Cuban descent, were reluctant Tuesday to discuss Ozzie Guillen's apology for the comments he made about Fidel Castro.

Consider the position of Yoenis Cespedes, the A's outfielder who defected from Cuba last summer and has family in Cuba. Having relatives living under the rule of Castro could easily lend one to silence.

Even though Braves pitcher Livan Hernandez defected 17 years ago, when he was 20, his situation is similar to that of Cespedes.

"I do not talk about politics," Hernandez said. "I still have family down there."

Guillen, the Marlins manager, apologized during a news conference with media and Miami community members at Marlins Park, hoping to smooth things over after his remarks to Time magazine upset many in South Florida's Cuban community.

Guillen's comments to Time included, "I love Castro," and, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here." He was suspended for five games by the Marlins.

The Padres' Yonder Alonso also did not care to talk. Some players may simply want to stay away from a conversation they see no benefit in joining, even if their families do not remain in Cuba.

"I get paid to play baseball for the Yankees and to help the Yankees win games," said outfielder Raul Ibanez, who is of Cuban descent. "That's the only thing I focus on and the only thing I care about right now. ... I just don't see anything that gets outside of that realm; it's just not productive for me or for the team."

Still, there were those with connections to Cuba who did speak about Guillen, and those players and managers appeared willing to forgive, even if none offered immediate absolution.

Royals catcher Brayan Pena defected from Cuba and lives in Miami. He woke up early Tuesday morning on the West Coast, where the Royals are playing the A's, to watch Guillen's news conference.

"I really saw somebody that was very regretful, somebody that was in a lot of pain, somebody who knew he'd caused him and his family and a lot of people a lot of pain," Pena said. "And somebody who really believed that he can change, that he learned from his mistake. He was like a piñata.

"This is America, everybody deserves a second chance. That's why I'm proud to be an American, that's why I became an American citizen. This is what a real democracy is, because I lived on the other side where you can't explain yourself, where you have to be very careful what you say."

The Royals have others from Cuba: third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez, bench coach Chino Cadahia and infielder Yuniesky Betancourt were also born there.

"1999 was the last time that I was able to go back to my country," Pena said. "So imagine people 50, 60 years ago like Eddie or Chino Cadahia and those guys. For me, it's been like forever."

Rodriguez has known Guillen for years.

"It's tough." he said. "I don't think Ozzie meant any harm. I feel that way [but] it's a thorn in the Cuban community's side. I hope it passes and it passes in the right way and that balance and understanding comes across from everybody."

The father of Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who lives in Miami, called his son on Tuesday morning and asked him to remain quiet. Gonzalez, who left Cuba with his parents at the age of three and spent most of his life in Miami, nonetheless felt he wanted to add some perspective.

"I saw a guy who knew he had made a mistake," Gonzalez said. "By reading his face, he's wearing it pretty good. I'm surprised for him [having lived in Miami] for so long that he took that lightly. I have an uncle and grandmother still down there [in Cuba]. I was born there and came [to Miami] when I was real young with my mom and dad. You take that pretty seriously, those kinds of comments when you're dealing with those kinds of dictatorships or leaderships.

"It's going to take a while to earn the trust of the people down there or for them to forget and forgive. You could tell that press conference was hard on him, harder than any kind of suspension or fine."

The White Sox's Alexei Ramirez, who played for Guillen, commented on the situation before Guillen's apology was issued, and said Tuesday he had nothing new to say.

"Apologizing is definitely a big first step," Ramirez said previously. "Again, I feel that everyone has their opinion, but I also feel that people should be forgiven. So, if he's going to apologize, then I feel that hopefully it will be accepted. I would just say whatever his thoughts, whatever his comments, those are Ozzie's comments. That's more on him."

Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez is from Miami and his father is from Cuba. Sanchez was pleased with the character his new manager displayed.

"He was sincere in his apology," Sanchez said. "It was good to see him out there apologizing, trying to set everything straight. He looked very sincere to me. We just have to move forward and keep going."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.