Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 4/18/12
MIAMI - Daniel Martinez is willing to forgive Ozzie Guillen. He believes his five-game suspension was suitable for the comment he made praising Fidel Castro. But if Martinez ever has a chance to talk to the Miami Marlins manager, he would have some pointed remarks. "My comment to him would be he knows nothing," Martinez said through a translator. "You have to experience personally living in Cuba." Martinez, 41, certainly experienced it. He lived his entire life in Cuba before he won a lottery that enabled him to come to the United States about a year ago. Martinez in 1989 was imprisoned for nine months in Cuba for being caught trying to take a raft out of the country to freedom in America. He was in a large cell that held about 40 and said food was scarce during his incarceration. "He is the king of bad," Martinez said of Castro. But there was the baseball-loving Martinez sitting in the stands down the left-field line for Miami's 5-2 win Tuesday night over the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park. He let out a resounding cheer when his favorite Miami player, Hanley Ramirez, crushed a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth that broke a 2-2 tie. The game marked the return of Guillen from his suspension for saying in a Time magazine article he has admiration for the Cuban dictator. Guillen apologized for the remark during a April 10 news conference before serving his penalty. Guillen was back Tuesday. He didn't quite know what to expect on his way to the game. "From my house to here is only about 12 to 15 minutes," Guillen said. "It seemed like two hours." But the night ending up going as well as Guillen could have expected. There were no evident signs of protest. The crowd of 24,544 was the smallest in five Marlins home games this season, but that might not be a gauge of anything since the first game was the long-awaited opener and the next three were during a weekend. Marlins closer Heath Bell joked after Tuesday's game the only real catcalls heard were when he went out for the ninth inning and fans yelled, "Don't blow it." Bell, a ballyhooed free-agent signee who had blown his first two save opportunities, got his first save by pitching a perfect ninth. "I appreciate the way the people were (Tuesday), not just for me," Guillen said. "I just think for the Marlins in general... That's pretty nice to see people still supporting the ballclub and put Ozzie Guillen's problems away from the ballclub and the Marlins organization." Several Cuban-Americans in the stands spoke of being hurt by Guillen's comments but that it was time to move on. That's why they were at Tuesday's game. "We're here," said Ozzie Perez, 48, who had brought his camera to record some protests and was surprised there weren't any. "Life goes on. Everybody makes mistakes in life. I think he learned from this mistake." Perez, who runs a used-car dealership in Miami, attended the game with Martinez, who does maintenance work for the dealership. Martinez said it's hard to keep Cubans away from baseball. "There isn't any Cuban who doesn't like baseball," Martinez said. "They're all born with it and they love baseball." As for loving Castro, hardly. And there was a big problem after Guillen was quoted as saying, "I love Fidel Castro." That comment rankled Martinez. He never again will return to Cuba, where his relatives remain. He misses family members greatly but said some will visit him in Miami. "If I begin to tell you everything that I could really say and feel about Fidel Castro, we won't have enough time before this game ends," said Martinez, speaking shortly before Ramirez's blast. "People need liberty and you have to have your freedom of speech. You don't have that in Cuba. You say something about (Castro) and he'll have you shot. There's no freedom." While there are some who have said Guillen was exercising his freedom of speech, it's not necessarily a right for employment, especially with a team that just opened a spanking new ballpark in the middle of Miami's Little Havana district. But Guillen said before Tuesday's game he never considered it a possibility he would be fired. "For that?" Guillen said. "You know what, I never worry about being fired from my job, no matter here, there or any place." As for another sort of penalty, Guillen said he has done that to himself. "I put myself on probation," said the Venezeulan. "Me, nobody else. Probation about grow up and be better and be careful I don't think I want to put myself in the same situation again in a community with Latino people I'm Latino. That's the worst feeling ever I don't want to go through that feeling again." Guillen said he spent his suspension in Miami and got out into the community. He said he received plenty of support, including from a Cuban-American man who rents him his house. Guillen, who has a four-year contract, vowed to do a "lot of things" during his time in Miami working in the community to show how sorry he is. Marlins president David Samson said the team soon will announce donations to groups for "human rights and causes related to Cuban-Americans." The usually-gregarious Guillen met with Samson on Tuesday. And one key thing was stressed by his boss. "I said to Ozzie in a very personal moment, 'We want you to not change the way you manage and the way you are. We want you to think (that) anything other than baseball is probably not funny. But everything baseball, even if it's negative, can be funny,'" Samson said. "And that is what we talked about. And he agreed to focus on baseball." So don't expect any more political comments from Guillen. But baseball will continue to be his passion. "I want to spend three hours of my life where I want to be," Guillen said about the thrill of being back in the dugout. "That's Ozzie Guillen. That's what I want, what I love the best." What Guillen really loves is three hours that includes a victory. And that's what his players gave him Tuesday. "To get a win in his first day back, I think that leaves a good taste in everybody's mouth," said catcher John Buck. "If (Guillen) said he's sorry and he's going to do something about it, he's going to and he is. I think (people) will see that he is sincere so hopefully that is enough to move on." Guillen is certainly ready to move on. He was asked if he had spent any time during his suspension reading about Castro to get a better understanding of the dictator. "That's the last thing I want to read, believe me," Guillen said while laughing. "I don't even want to think about it." Nevertheless, Martinez wouldn't mind telling Guillen just what Castro is all about. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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