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Ortiz Returns and Pledges to Honor Late Father

ANGEL REPORT

September 14, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — Ramon Ortiz rejoined the Angels on Saturday, vowing to dedicate the rest of this season and his career to his father, Alfonso Urena, who died last week at 64. Ortiz said his mother encouraged him to return to the team and told him, "Your father will give power to you."

His father had suffered from emphysema for years, needing oxygen and unable to get around without a walker, but his condition deteriorated suddenly last week. When Ortiz called to talk to his father, as he did after each of his starts, one of his brothers answered and said the father had been taken from the family home in the Dominican Republic to a hospital.

With his final words, Ortiz said, his father asked how his son had fared in that last start -- fairly well, he was told -- and said, "Thank God." Then, Ortiz said, his father removed his ring, handed it to his mother and died quietly.

Ortiz is scheduled to start Monday, for the first time in 12 days.

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Francisco Rodriguez feared leaving his Venezuela home last winter. He returned from the United States -- and the World Series -- as a national hero. However, his grandmother and brothers were robbed at gunpoint during a time of crisis, when a strike by workers opposed to President Hugo Chavez crippled the economy and resulted in shortages of food and fuel.

The U.S. Embassy curtailed services during the crisis, delaying approval of the visa Rodriguez needed to work for the Angels and suspending the visa process for others, including his grandmother, sister and two brothers.

"I'd still like to bring them over here and see me pitch," Rodriguez said. "Hopefully, everything is back to normal in my country. It was sad to see my country in that situation."

Although fears of renewed violence have prompted two major league teams to advise players not to participate in the Venezuelan winter league, Rodriguez said he is not worried about returning home. He would like to pitch a few games in the league, although pitching coach Bud Black said, "I think Frankie should take the winter off."

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The Angels' Provo affiliate lost the final game of the Pioneer League championship series, on a no-hitter.

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