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MLB’s Magglio Ordóñez: A strong Chávez supporter

Published Apr 5, 2009 9:58 PM

Right-fielder and batting-champion Magglio Ordóñez is arguably the most popular and well-respected member of the Detroit Tigers Major League Baseball team. He is an excellent ballplayer and beloved by Tigers fans throughout Michigan. At every home game one can see children in the stands emulating their hero’s signature look by sporting a Tigers baseball cap with long curly hair attached to the back.

It is likely many fans were wondering what was happening as they watched their favorite Tiger take to the plate and the outfield during the recent World Baseball Classic tournament and heard loud boos erupting from the stands in Miami on March 14 as Venezuela beat the Netherlands 3-1.

Ordóñez, along with fellow Tigers Carlos Guillén, Miguel Cabrera and Armando Galarraga, played for the Venezuelan national team during the Classic. Because he is a long-time supporter of President Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, some fans in Miami took issue with Ordóñez. Like the wealthy capitalists who left Cuba after its victorious socialist revolution in 1959, many Venezuelan capitalists and counterrevolutionaries have emigrated to Miami and southern Florida since Chávez took office in 1999.

Anti-Chávez Venezuelan baseball fans booed Ordóñez repeatedly and cheered loudly when he struck out in the fourth inning against the Netherlands. “He was booed again ... during pre-game introductions and his first at-bat against Puerto Rico, though this time there were shouts of support as well.” (Associated Press, March 16)

Ordóñez recently made a television commercial supporting the Chávez government’s successful campaign to abolish presidential term limits. In it he told Venezuelans that “the best of the revolution is yet to come.” (Detroit Free Press, March 15)

Baseball is very popular in Venezuela. Chávez called Ordóñez during the tournament to tell the ballplayer not to worry and that, “We support you here.” Chávez publicly defended Ordóñez and stated: “Everyone has the right to think about politics. This is shameful. Viva Magglio and all our compatriots!” (mlive.com, March 17)

As he returned to the Tigers training camp in Lakeland, Fla., Ordóñez told reporters the booing had only bothered him slightly and that he stands by his support of the Venezuelan president: “I regret nothing. I’ve done nothing bad to nobody. It’s an honor for me to represent my country.” (Detroit Free Press, March 27)