MIAMI (AP) — Chastened Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen sat alone at a podium and began in Spanish, then halted in the middle of a sentence when his voice wavered. He took a sip of water and cleared his throat, then continued.
Suspended for five games Tuesday because of his comments lauding Fidel Castro, Guillen again apologized and said he'll do whatever he can to repair relations with Cuban Americans angered by the remarks.
“I'm very sorry about the problem, what happened,” said Guillen, who is only five games into his tenure with the Marlins. “I will do everything in my power to make it better. … I know it's going to be a very bumpy ride.”
The suspension by the team took effect immediately. It was announced shortly before Guillen held a news conference to explain what he said.
Guillen, a 48-year-old Venezuelan, told Time magazine he loves Castro and respects the retired Cuban leader for staying in power so long. In response, at least two local officials said Guillen should lose his job.
At the news conference, Guillen said his comments were misinterpreted by the reporter and he doesn't love or admire the dictator.
“I was saying I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive,” Guillen told the news conference.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he supported the decision to suspend Guillen. He called Guillen's remarks in the magazine “offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world” and “have no place in our game.”
Guillen took responsibility for the uproar and said it left him sad and embarrassed. He also said he accepted the team's punishment.
Outside an entrance to the Marlins' new ballpark in Little Havana, about 100 demonstrators wanting Guillen's ouster shouted and chanted during the news conference. The team didn't consider firing Guillen or asking him to resign, Marlins President David Samson said.
“We believe in him,” Samson said. “We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance. Politics are a conversation I don't think you're going to be hearing more about from Ozzie.”
With reaction to Guillen's praise of Castro escalating in South Florida, he left his team in Philadelphia and flew to Miami in an attempt at damage control. The Marlins and Phillies had the day off and resumed their series in Philadelphia Wednesday.
“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” read a statement from the team. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
Selig said in his statement that “baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities.”
“All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities,” he added. “And I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve.”
The suspension recalled the punishment given to Marge Schott, the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Schott so embarrassed baseball in the 1990s with inflammatory racial remarks and fond recollections of Adolf Hitler that she was suspended from ownership duties for a season.
Photo: Ozzie Guillen