After a national firestorm erupted over comments he made about Cuban leader Fidel Castro to Time Magazine, an apologetic Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillén addressed a packed press conference in Miami Tuesday to explain his words and make amends with the Cuban-American community in Florida.
Guillén, whom the Marlins have placed on a five-game suspension, said that he was sad and embarrassed over making the comments and that he would work to show the Latino community that he was sorry.
“This is the biggest mistake of my life,” Guillén said at the press conference. “When you make a mistake this big…I will learn from it.”
Guillén’s controversial comments came during an interview with Time Magazine where the Venezuelan manager said "I love Fidel Castro. ... I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still there."
Many Cuban American groups have called for Guillén’s resignation, and Vigilia Mambisa, a Cuban-American group, is boycotting the Miami Marlins until Guillén resigns.
“This is why they hired me, to manage a ball club, not to talk politics,” Guillén said. “I can show the Cuban community, the Latin community, how much better I am.”
The Marlin’s manager said that his words were interpreted incorrectly because he was interviewed in English.
“What I was trying to say is that a person who has been in power for so long and has hurt so many people can still be in power,” Guillén said.
“I’m not blaming the journalist, I’m blaming myself,” he added.
Guillén will serve the five-game suspension without pay, and plans to address his players on Wednesday to explain his actions. He added that he can’t say right now if he believes the suspension is fair or not, and would just like to be on better terms with the Cuban community.
“To fix my problem with the community is more important than the suspension and the money,” Guillén said.
The 48-year-old Venezuelan manager is no stranger to controversy and has been a favorite of the sports press for his eccentric and sometimes divisive comments.
In 2006, while managing the Chicago White Sox, Guillén drew heat for calling Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a homosexual slur.
While he apologized for offending homosexuals, he did not back down on his comments about Mariotti.
Guillén also came out in opposition of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, calling undocumented immigrants “workaholics” and said "There are a lot of people from this country who are lazy. We're not. Prove me wrong.”
He also said that Asian players were treated better than Latino players in the MLB.
In 2011, Guillén went after actor Sean Penn for his support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has a close alliance with Fidel Castro.
“Sean Penn. if you love Venezuela, please move to Venezuela for a year. . .But rent a house in Guarenas or Guatire to see how long you last, clown. . .Can I say what I think about him? He is a loser,” he said, according to USA Today.
Guillén is slated to return to managing the Marlins for the club’s April 17 match-up against the Chicago Cubs, which is -- ironically -- the 51st anniversary of the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. Each day, the anniversary is observed by Cuban Americans in Miami and other U.S. regions with solemn ceremonies.
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.