Venezuelan President Chavez defends baseball player amid jeers

President Hugo Chavez came to the defence of Magglio Ordonez on Sunday, lambasting the Venezuelan crowd in Miami that constantly jeered the politically vocal outfielder at the World Baseball Classic.

Ordonez berated by club's own supporters at WBC in Miami

Magglio Ordonez has one important fan in Venezuela.

It just may not be enough to curtail the barrage of boos that have recently bombarded the ballplayer.

President Hugo Chavez came to the defence of Ordonez on Sunday, lambasting the pro-Venezuelan crowd in Miami that constantly jeered the politically vocal outfielder at the World Baseball Classic.

During the 3-1 victory over the Netherlands on Saturday, Ordonez was booed at every plate appearance, and cheered amid a fourth-inning strikeout and later when he was replaced in the game. 

"Everyone has a right to think about politics," said Chavez. "This is shameful. [Those fans] have no shame."

Many Venezuelans living in South Florida oppose Chavez and his communist beliefs. The taunting toward the Detroit Tigers slugger comes following recent political appearances in support of a leader who has recently won the right to stay in office for life.

'They're booing everybody'

"They may have their own reasons for booing me, but I'm a person that they should respect on the team because I am not Venezuela," said Ordonez.

"Venezuela is the entire team. And when they boo me, they're booing everybody."

In a television ad aired last month, Ordonez appeared in support of a proposal by Chavez that would eliminate term limits for the president and other elected officials.

That proposal was approved in a Feb.15 referendum.

The major leaguer also joined Chavez prior to the vote for a friendly softball game. Though dubbed "The Amendment Cup," Ordonez denied the state-televised event was for anything other than fun.

"It wasn't a political campaign," he said.

Victoria Mata, the Venezuelan sports minister, also came to the player's defence. An article run by YVKE Mundial titled, "Venezuelan Worms in Miami," reprimanded the fans.

"The hostility from those fans against a player who is defending Venezuela with courage and dignity is shameful," Mata said.

Ordonez, who made $15.7 million US in 2008, remains unaffected.

"I don't worry about things like that," he said. "Politics and baseball don't mix."

Fans will get another chance to heckle the 35-year-old right fielder as Venezuela plays Puerto Rico in Miami on Monday night.  

Despite the victory, Ordonez batted 0-3 on Saturday.

With files from the Associated Press