"It's been a tough couple of days," Miami manager Ozzie Guillen tells reporters
Guillen had been suspended by the Marlins for comments he made praising Fidel Castro
Anti-Castro sentiment is strong in Miami's Cuban-American population
At gametime, fans seem more focused on baseball, not controversy
A relieved Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters Tuesday night he was happy to get a break from controversial topics and just talk baseball.
“It’s been a tough couple of days, you know what I mean?” Guillen, in his first season as Marlins manager, told reporters before a game against the Chicago Cubs.
“I feel proud of the players and the coaching staff because they play well – we wish they’d won a couple more games, but they … went after their job very good, the way I thought they were gonna go about their business, and there’s no one more excited than me to be back with them.”
In an interview with Time magazine earlier this month, Guillen said, “I love Fidel Castro,” adding, “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still there.”
After those comments, demonstrators rallied outside the Marlins’ new $634 million stadium to denounce Guillen. The stadium is in the Little Havana section of the city, home to many who fled Cuba after Castro’s 1959 communist revolution.
Guillen apologized during a news conference April 10 – first speaking in Spanish – saying that he had “betrayed a Latin community” and that he was speaking ask for forgiveness with my heart in my hand.”
Guillen’s remarks came as his Marlins, who had often suffered from weak attendance despite winning two World Series, were seeking to burnish their brand. The club had moved into a new park in the heart of the city, changed its name (formerly the Florida Marlins), redesigned its uniforms and invested in some key offseason acquisitions. Among those moves was the hiring of Guillen, who in his previous managerial position with the Chicago White Sox had developed a reputation for building winning teams and, from time to time, making headlines with blunt remarks.
In 2006, he apologized for making an anti-gay slur against a Chicago newspaper columnist, and in 2010 he said it was unfair that Japanese ballplayers got translators when Spanish-speaking players didn’t.
The Castro comment controversy appeared to have settled down Tuesday night as Guillen took his spot in the dugout for the game with the Cubs.
If anyone was protesting in Marlins Park, it was not discernible over the gametime buzz of a pitching duel between Marlins ace Josh Johnson and the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster.
CNN’s Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.