Visa issue sidelines Ponson
Right-hander waiting for resolution of court case
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles right-hander Sidney Ponson was scratched from his scheduled Spring Training start on Monday against the Marlins, and club officials are unsure when he's going to pitch in a Major League game again because of visa issues stemming from his court case last week in Aruba.Ponson, who pitched in a simulated game instead, was given until May 10 to reach an out-of-court settlement with the victim of a Dec. 25 melee on an Aruban beach. Ponson apparently hit a judge during a confrontation and he received a suspended sentence on March 3 in Aruba. He was ordered to settle with the victim, make a substantial contribution to an Aruban charity and perform community service. Since the charges are not settled, Ponson was told by his agent, Barry Praver, on Sunday night that he would be unable to pitch in any game that charged admission because he would be generating money, and Ponson has yet to obtain his work visa. After settling the case, Ponson will need to apply for a P-1 visa through the Immigration and Naturalization Service to pitch this season. "I found out last night," Ponson said. "My [agent] called me and told me that it's best for me right now not to [pitch]. I respect that. I don't want to jeopardize my visa either. I can wait. I put myself in the situation, so I now have to deal with it. Hopefully we can get this squared away very soon." Ponson can pitch in simulated or minor league games. According to Praver, Chris Lejuez, Ponson's Aruban lawyer, is currently working on a settlement, and Praver said he is optimistic it can be reached soon. "Chris is working on it right now," Praver said. "Basically, we didn't think it was appropriate for Sidney to request a work visa given his recent circumstances. We are just trying to clear everything up." Praver said he called club officials Sunday night to inform them of the possibility Ponson would violate his temporary visitor's visa by pitching. That visa allows him to conduct business or vacation in the United States, but he cannot work. Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Jim Beattie called the Commissioner's Office. Major League Baseball officials then contacted INS, who then told the Orioles that Ponson was not allowed to pitch. "Because of the way this has gone with Sidney, until there is a formal dismissal of the charges and all the conditions of what happened in Aruba are met, he can't pitch in games where admission is charged," Beattie said. "Once those three conditions are met and the judge dismisses the charges, then he can go and get his work papers and then he can pitch and continue on." Ponson, 28, spent 11 days in an Aruban jail after he was arrested the night of the incident. He was confronted at a beach in Boca Catalina by fellow beachgoers who accused him of riding his watercraft recklessly. He apparently punched a local judge in the fracas, and he spent time in jail because Aruba does not have a bail system. After being released on Jan. 6, he returned to the United States until his March 3 court date. He shook hands with the victim, who told him he only wanted money for his medical expenses. Orioles infielder Enrique Wilson is also in the United States on a visitor's visa, but since he is trying to make the club -- i.e. apply for a job -- he is able to compete in games. "It could be done tomorrow or it could be done a week or two weeks from now," Ponson said.
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.