(In happier times, Ugueth Urbina celebrates with Pudge Rodriguez the victory that gave the Marlins the 2003 NL WIld Card berth in 2003. Photo by Associated Press.)
I can’t say “Ugueth Urbina” is my favorite baseball name ever — not when Boof Bonser is still in the discussion — but it’s right up there.
I always loved the way it rolls off the tongue. I loved the fact that his middle name is Urtain. I loved that he’s the only player in baseball history with the initials U.U. I loved it when I learned his brothers were named Ulmer Utah and Ulises Ulses.
So for a lot of years, I made sport of the Urbina name. I would take any chance I could to put a “Ugueth” reference into my Power Rankings. It became my thing. It helped that Urbina was a pretty darned good pitcher. He led the National League with 41 saves for the Montreal Expos in 1999. He made two All-Star teams. He was the closer for the Florida Marlins team that won the World Series over the Yankees in 2003.
Then, in September, 2004, Urbina’s mother, Maura Villareal was kidnapped in Venezuela, where Urbina is from. According to his Wikipedia page, “Urbina’s family refused to pay the ransom and an anti-kidnapping unit rescued her in a military-style operation on February 18, 2005.”
Suddenly, it wasn’t as much fun to riff on Ugueth Urbina’s name. And then, later that year, in November, Urbina was arrested in Venezuela on attempted murder charges. It’s an ugly story that doesn’t need to be recounted in detail here, but on March 28, 2007, Urbina was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. I don’t think I’ve done much with Ugueth Urbina over the past seven years.
So why am I bringing this up? While flipping through the minor-league portion of the 2012 Mariners’ media guide this past weekend, the name jumped out at me: the Mariners have a new 17-year-old, right-handed pitcher from Venezuela named — yup — Ugueth Urtain Urbina. His entry says he was signed as a non-drafted free agent on Nov. 4, 2011 by Mariners scouts Juan Garcia Puig, Wayne Norton and Emilio Carrasquel.
I’m told that he is indeed the son of Ugueth Urbina, the long-time closer who is now 38. I hope he has a long and productive career. I can imagine his life hasn’t been easy since 2005. I expect he’ll be playing for the Mariners’ Venezuelan Summer League team to start out. I’ll say this: It’s good to have an Urbina back in the game.