I think we usually assume the best of baseball players — and celebs in general — until they prove us wrong. Unfortunately, they all too often prove us wrong. Sometimes they gamble (Pete Rose), sometimes they cheat (Patrick Ewing), sometimes they cheat (Barry Bonds), and sometimes they bite (Marv Albert).
But the case of Ugueth Urbina makes all other athlete dissapointments seem minor in comparison. Ugi was always a seemingly nice guy with a fun nickname who could come in during the closing innings of a game and shut the door. He got in the occassional bar fight or agument with teammates, but we never had reason to think that he might be a cold blooded killer:
Urbina and three friends are accused of beating, hacking and torturing six workers in a dispute allegedly about the disappearance of a pistol from Urbina’s ranch. The workers said Urbina directed his friends to repeatedly splash paint thinner and gasoline on them before setting them afire.
“Urbina was the one commanding the whole thing,” said Bernardo Navarros, 24, whose upper body is covered with thick scar tissue seven months after the incident.
Urbina’s lawyers say that there was indeed a fight Oct. 15 but that it was between rival groups of workers at his farm and did not involve a gun – or Urbina. They say the workers fabricated the story to get their hands on Urbina’s wealth – the relief pitcher has earned more than $25 million in his 11-year career, including $4 million last year.
Urbina’s story is a sad one. His father was slain in the early ’90s by robbers trying to steal a truck Urbina had bought him. And Urbina’s mother was held last year by kidnappers who wanted millions to release her.
We hear stories about how baseball players like Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz return to their home countries in the offseason and are treated like gods. Urbina, seemingly, is treated like a target.
Maybe what happened to his parents finally pushed him over the edge. Maybe this is just another attempt to extort money from the big leaguer. We’ll find out soon. Urbina’s trial for attempted murder is scheduled to start next month.