Jon Jay: Guillen needed to apologize

CINCINNATI • Jon Jay watched Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen with interest Tuesday. Guillen, in the aftermath of comments praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in Time magazine, offered a very public and at times painful hour-long apology to those offended by his sentiment.

"I thought what he said today was good; it needed to be said," Jay said. "Maybe they can get back to playing baseball now."

The Cardinals center fielder grew up in south Miami and attended the University of Miami as a descendent of Cuban refugees who fled the island nation following Castro's takeover in January 1959.

He understands first-hand the pain many Miami residents felt over Guillen's comments.

"What happened, happened," Jay said Tuesday before the Cardinals' game against the Cincinnati Reds. "But people don't understand a lot of it. People's families picked up and left. The people that left were doctors, lawyers and others with college degrees. They left the country for freedom. But they left with little, if anything. They came to the United States and struggled. They came over here and learned English while raising their families."

Jay's grandmother had been a schoolteacher in Cuba. She worked in a factory after emigrating, learned English and eventually found a job as a kindergarten teacher in Florida. His grandfather found work as an air conditioning repairman.

"They were comfortable in Cuba," Jay said. "They lived in the same surroundings where they had grown up. But they had to pick up and move to a new place. I know the impression that made on my family."

Guillen's comments picked at an old wound that still festers within the Miami community.

"It's a very sensitive subject, especially to the older Cuban community," Jay said. "The older I get the more I understand about the sacrifices my family made for me. I wouldn't be sitting here today if it wasn't for them. I know why they had to make those sacrifices."

While Guillen praised Castro for his longevity in power, those forced from their native country await regime change. Guillen was particularly tone deaf given that he's in the employ of an organization committed to marketing itself to Miami's Latin community.

"He needed to say something," Jay said. "The topic still cuts very deep."

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