When you think about the South American country of Colombia, drug wars and soccer come to mind. Baseball? Nah. Who plays baseball from Colombia?
The San Diego Padres, a team with among the fewest Latino players in the major leagues, have a relief pitcher named Ernesto Frieri. He’s Colombian. But you’d be hard pressed to come up with any other prominent players from there except for two veteran shortstops, Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera. And sadly for national unity, these men do not enjoy each others company.
The fact that Renteria and Cabrera have been forever feuding is fairly well documented. Both have been instrumental in trying to developing youth baseball in Colombia. Renteria has a baseball academy in his native Barranquilla and Cabrera built one in Cartagena, his home turf. Both their families have owned professional teams there. A simmering rivalry developed. But the core of the problem is personal.
Renteria, it seems, has always had a leg up on Cabrera. In the early 90’s when Cabrera’s father, Jolbert, worked for the Florida Marlins, he had recommended his older son, Jolbert Jr., for a tryout. Unsuccessful, he then pleaded his case for Orlando. Didn’t happen. Eventually, though, the Marlins signed Renteria, and all he did was win the World Series for the fish in 1997 with an epic, 11th inning hit in game seven.
Cabrera ended up inking a contract with the Montreal Expos in 1993 and made a name for himself, though struggling through the waning years of that franchise. He has made a ton of money and even won a championship ring of his own with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. He is hard nosed, controversial and often misunderstood.
Renteria, on the other hand, is quiet, diplomatic and leads by example. Both men have played for seven different teams and have each earned two gold gloves. But Edgar has been an all-star on three occasions. Orlando? Never.Renteria’s rings have been won with heroics, like his dramatic home run for the San Francisco Giants that clinched his MVP trophy in last season’s World Series. Cabrera has been more of a blue collar cog with his teams, seldom soaking in the fanfare his entire career.
Even prior to the current season, Cabrera got little respect from the Cincinnati Reds, who declined to renew a contract option and released him. Who did they sign instead as a free agent? Renteria. Unhappy that he got little thanks in San Francisco, Edgar got his way and agreed to play for the Reds in a deal that could earn him $3 million. Cabrera, who was out of work until two weeks prior to spring training, accepted a meager $1 million from the lowly Cleveland Indians.
It would appear that Renteria, always the gentleman, likes wearing the white, good guy hat. He even canceled a personal, championship parade in Barranquilla last year, preferring to give the proceeds to flood victims in the area. Oddly enough, its the hot headed Cabrera who says he’d like to bury the hatchet with Renteria and move forward.
“I’ve tried to be a nice guy, ” says Orlando, who reportedly has asked to arrange personal meetings with his fellow Colombian. “I’ve even tried to make conversation with him on the field.”
For his part, Renteria seems uncomfortable about the subject.
“Orlando and I will never be friends,” replies Edgar, shaking his head.”He’s always been jealous of me.”