JUPITER -- As the manager of Venezuela’s World Baseball Classic team, former major leaguer Luis Sojo got to know late president Hugo Chavez well over the years.
“He was a man of baseball,” Sojo said a couple of hours before his team faced the Marlins in an exhibition game at Roger Dean Stadium. “He was always aware of the team and who was on it. He was the first call I got in the morning during the tournaments in 2006 and 2009. He lived for baseball.
“It’s always sad when someone dies. He was a human being, a president, a man who battled a lot for his life. He asked his family for peace. We’re in a tough situation in our country right now. God has [Chavez] now.”
The Venezuelan national team, which lost to the Marlins 6-5 on Tuesday and will play the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon before heading to Puerto Rico for WBC tournament pool play, requested a moment of silence and that the country’s flag be placed at half staff before Tuesday’s game in honor of their late president.
But after consulting with Major League Baseball officials, a Marlins spokesman said a joint decision was made not to do so because “there wasn’t enough time to honor the request.” The Venezuelan national flag stood at half staff for several minutes while the team took batting practice Tuesday. But the flag was eventually returned to full staff.
A spokesman for the Venezuelan team told reporters the country’s minister of sports, Hector Rodriguez, relayed the following message to the team before Tuesday’s game: “Please tell the guys to concentrate on sports and leave the political stuff out.”