Magglio Ordonez, a six-time Major League Baseball All-Star with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, will run for mayor of a Venezuelan oil town in the socialist party of the late President Hugo Chavez.
“We invite our major leaguer, Magglio Ordonez, to hit a grand slam in Puerto La Cruz,” Chavez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, announced on state television yesterday.
Ordonez, a 39-year-old former outfielder, hit 294 home runs during 15 seasons with the White Sox and Tigers, and won the American League’s batting title with Detroit in 2007. He moved to Puerto La Cruz in his native Venezuela after retiring in 2011. The city of about 500,000 is 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Caracas.
Ordonez, who earned an estimated $133 million over his professional career, according to baseball-reference.com, supported Chavez’s “21st Century Socialism.” In 2009, he told Venezuelans in political ads that “the best of the revolution is yet to come.”
During his 14 years in power, Chavez, a former paratrooper, tapped the world’s biggest oil reserves to cut Venezuela’s poverty rate to 29.5 percent in 2011 from 48.6 percent in 2002, according to the United Nations. His term was also marked by falling oil production, declining foreign currency reserves and one of the fastest inflation rates in the world. He died from cancer in March.
Puerto La Cruz is currently run by Stalin Jose Fuentes of the ruling United Socialist Party.
Baseball has made millionaires of hundreds of working-class Venezuelans. There are about 60 Venezuelans currently playing in the major leagues, the second biggest group outside North America after people from the Dominican Republic, according to Jose Grasso, former president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. A total of 294 Venezuelans have played in the MLB, according to baseball-reference.com.
“It’s the dream of every Venezuelan,” Grasso said in a telephone interview from Caracas today. “Ordonez is loved by everyone here, and as a retired player he has every right to run for any office and for any party.”
Both Chavez and Maduro pitched in minor leagues in Venezuela, the only South American country where baseball tops soccer as the most popular sport.