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Monday, December 12, 2005
Urbina interview transcript

ESPN

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of the interview ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez conducted with Ugueth Urbina, the MLB relief pitcher who is in a Venezuelan jail accused of attempted murder.

Pedro Gomez: What are the conditions like here in jail?
Ugueth Urbina: Let's say that this is one of the jails, in Venezuela, that is more livable. The conditions are not what you expect. You have to adapt to the system here. But it's not the same as being in your house. Things here are different. Like they say here, you have to have a daily discipline to be here. You have to comply. Aside from the bad, you can live.

PG: Ozzie Guillen told us there's a lot of order in your life, that your closets are kept in order. What's it like for you in here?
UU: It's vastly different. It affects me because I've always had a lot of order in my life. Like Ozzie said, he knows me, I have different closets for my clothes. It's not the same here. You have one pair of shoes, one pair of flip-flops, two or three shorts, two or three pants, four shirts. And you wash them today, wear them today and you're wearing them again tomorrow. It's hard in that sense.

PG: You've made two All-Star teams, you've been one of the best relief pitchers in the game the last 10, 11 years. Now you're living with some 20 people in the same cell. What's that change been like for you?
UU: It's very different and difficult. We're 32 in one cell. Thirty-two people in one cell and you have to start to meet them. You learn what their problems are, and we all have problems here. Not just the ones that got us here, but outside, like our families. It's not very easy, but you have to try and live with the people that are around you.

PG: How did you end up here? What happened?
UU: I came to Venezuela for three days. I came to install a closed-circuit set to my ranch that I own. There are cameras that you can install and see what's going on at your place while you're in the United States. I arrived at the ranch, that day I went to watch the World Series game, [but] my son was hungry so I left. I had hired this woman to take care of the ranch, because the person I had in charge before wasn't doing a good job and many things were getting lost, washers, many things, you can imagine. So I had to fire that person and hire a new one. This new person brought several new workers that she hired. Then the old workers didn't get along with the new workers. They disagreed almost daily, they had their differences between them.

PG: What happened that night?
UU: Those people started drinking at 3 in the afternoon, and it was almost midnight when this happened. You can imagine how inebriated these people were. They started arguing. When all this happened, I had already gone to sleep. I had arrived that day to Venezuela, I had woke up early that day. I was tired. When I woke up the next morning I was surprised that the police were there, telling me there was some sort of problem the night before. I told them, that I know, there has been no problem here. That was the first wave of police that came to my ranch. Then the second came with the same story. I said, nothing's happened here. If you want, come in. I let them in. When they came in there were some people in one room, some were injured. I was surprised, like they were.

That same day, I went and gave my statement. I said what I knew and went home. From there, I went to my other home in Caracas. [Beginning] the next day on, it started coming out in the papers that it was me who did this. And that's where all the confusion that is still around began. I came here even though I should not be here [in jail]. Why? Because the people who put me here, the method they used to put me here was not what they indicated at the beginning. They did things that were not appropriate to place me here. If they had done what they should have done, I would be at my home right now. They did things, like trying to tell people that I was going to leave the country, when I was at my home for three weeks after the incident. I never left the country. They said I was a threat to flee the country. Where can I hide? Someone who is so recognizable here and in all parts? Then, because of that, they did these things, but now things are starting to become clear and I'm waiting for everything to become clear.

PG: Why did [the people] say you were responsible for their injuries?
UU: Because of bad luck on our part, because this is a country that, I love my country, but here, there are people that love money. What do they gain from this? They say that it was me so that they can get money. You understand? These are people that live simply, let's say. So by them saying that it was me, they could somehow gain and take money from all of this.

PG: Have they asked you for money?
UU: There are a few things going on, many things that I could tell you, but I cannot. But yes, there have been inquiries for money.

PG: One of the things Ozzie Guillen told us is that, for whatever reason, you are protecting some people that aren't really your friends. What can you tell us about that?
UU: In reality, it was, at least the old workers at my ranch, they've been friends of mine since infancy. And they're people that had the incident with the other workers. But I'm not protecting anyone. They've also gone to give their statements. There are two of them who are also injured, that are friends of mine. Maybe those are things some people aren't aware of.

PG: How much of this was simply a fight between the old workers and the new workers?
UU: It was solely that. It was differences between the old workers and the new workers. They had their problems for some time when this happened. They would argue and they did what they did.

PG: We interviewed two of the victims, one of them has his body half burned, the other has machete wounds on his shoulders. The one with machete wounds says you, Ugueth Urbina, grabbed the machete and hit him in the back. How do you respond to that?
UU: It's like I've said, by blaming me, they think they're going to get some money or something out of me. They're going to blame me because I'm the baseball player, I'm the one that has the money. And here, unfortunately, they want to try and take advantage of the situation. They're not going to say it was my friends, someone who lives a normal life like anyone. They're going to say it's me. I have my position in life. I'm a professional. They're expecting me to give them some money.

PG: What are the dangers of being a major-league player and having money and being in Venezuela?
UU: It's not just in Venezuela. It's all of Latin America. Because here, by bad luck, because of the ways of communication, you might sign a contract and they put it down as though you're the biggest millionaire in the world. And when people come, they believe things that aren't really true. In the case of my mother's kidnapping, the people were asking for six million dollars. They don't know what it's like over there [in the United States]. They don't know how things work. You sign, but have to pay taxes. They don't understand. To have money and power here in Venezuela is not always good. You find problems and plenty of them. Sometimes it's better not to have money.

PG: How much drinking had been going on the day of the incident?
UU: When I was there, I had three beers with them, [and] then I left. I then returned around 11 and they had been drinking all day. I then left for another part of town where I grew up, about five minutes away, to a friend's house where I was watching the World Series.

PG: When you got back, what state were [the people] in?
UU: They were in an advanced stage of drinking, all of them. They started arguing about some missing items, a washer, a compressor used for painting, many things. And they started arguing then. They may have been arguing over questions about women, I don't know. They had their own problems.

PG: They also said that some of the confusion came about because of a missing pistol. Was there a pistol missing?
UU: No. There's never been a pistol missing. It's like I said, there were other items missing. ...

PG: You maybe have seen the pictures of the five kids and they have real injuries. Do you think those injuries happened at your ranch?
UU: Yes. That happened there. It happened that night. Because there are two friends of mine who were there that are injured. In total, there are seven (people) that came away injured, five of them and two of the older workers. What happened is the two older workers no one has seen them. They're at their house doing their rehabilitation. They've continued with their normal lives. They didn't act like these others.

PG: Why are you the only one in jail?
UU: That's what I don't understand. And the explanation is like I was saying. They did many irregular things so that they could bring me here to prison. Once you're in prison, maybe they'll ask for money. All of this is because of money. There's no other thing you can look for here. They're looking for money. And the other people that are accused here are in the streets and living normal lives. The only one in here is me.

PG: How much of that is because they don't have money?
UU: They don't have money. The one who has money is in prison.

PG: What do you think is going to happen in this case?
UU: I think this will all be cleared up and we'll all know what the truth is and what the lies are and everything that's been said here.

PG: How much has your reputation suffered because of this?
UU: I imagine that I may never play baseball again, you know how Americans are. But as for me, I'm waiting to try to fix my problems and clear my name the best I can and then wait and see. If not, I guess I'll stay here at my home.

PG: You're 31 years old, it seems inconceivable that you may never pitch again, given the type of season you just had. You think your career may be over?
UU: I hope not. I'd like to play another four or five years before retiring from baseball, but that's why I say I'm trying to find a solution to this problem and clear my name as much as possible so that people can see I had nothing to do with this problem.

PG: In your mind, will you pitch in major-league baseball this coming year?
UU: Me, yes. I want to pitch. That's why I'm doing everything possible and my lawyers are doing everything possible to see if that can be realized.

PG: Could there be an indirect link between your mother's kidnapping and this incident?
UU: Here, people always try and find a way to get money from you. And more so for someone who is an artist, a sports figure, a name. You're always a target. Like today it's me, tomorrow it could be another person. All of us have to live with that every day, just because we're famous.

PG: How do you feel about living the rest of your life in Venezuela after these things have happened?
UU: After this, once everything is cleared up, I have my house in Miami. I'll probably come on vacation, one week, maybe two weeks to see my family. But I think I'm going to take residence in Miami.

PG: So you're done with life in Venezuela?
UU: Yes. Imagine it. I've had two experiences, with my mother and this one. It's like someone is telling me to live in another place. And maybe that's the best thing for me to do.

PG: Ozzie Guillen told us he called you and asked you to leave the country, that once everything was clear you could then come back. Why didn't you leave?
UU: Because if I had left, people would have thought I was trying to flee. For me, it was the most correct thing to do. Because when you try and flee, you're letting others think that you are guilty of something. It's better to stay and clear things up and then leave, after everything is straightened out. Because if you leave, you're letting anyone think that you are guilty, because you are fleeing.

PG: What would you say to your accusers right now?
UU: In reality, they have to reflect and say things the way it really happened. Because I can't say much more than that. They have to know what they're doing.