Before the current President of the United States interjected politics into the sports world with his myopic take on NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem, the intersection of sports and politics had its own crossing in the Latin-American community last week. Former MLB All-Star and Dominican politican Raúl Mondesí was found guilty of corruption charges and misuse of public funds, and sentenced to 8 years in prison after an investigation into his days as a mayor in the DR.
Mondesí, a prodigious hitter who began his career in a breakout season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994, served as mayor of his hometown, San Cristóbal from 2010 to 2016, the period during which the crimes occurred. San Cristobal is located in the southern section of the Dominican Republic, approximately 15 miles from the country’s capital, Santo Domingo. The San Cristobal province is home to several current MLB pitchers, such as Ivan Nova (Pittsburgh Pirates), Ervin Santana (Minnesota Twins), and Michael Pineda (NY Yankees).
Signed as young teenager by the Dodgers, Mondesí played a total of 13 seasons in the majors for seven different teams. With his ’94 season stat line of .306 BA/ 133 hits (including 16 HR and 27 doubles) with 56 RBIs, Mondesí was voted National League Rookie of the Year, garnering unanimous first place votes.
The next year he made his lone All-Star appearance and, in his first few seasons with the Dodgers, Mondesí seemed destined for the Hall of Fame with two 30-30 Club (stolen bases-HRs) performances in 1997 and 1999. But offensive production wasn’t the only area where Mondesí shone, as he boasted a cannon of an arm that few runners dared to test. He won won two Gold Gloves– in 1995 and 1997–and compiled 112 outfield assists during his career, playing mostly right field.
His Dodgers tenure ended during the 1999 offseason as he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he continued to put up decent hitting stats until he was traded to the NY Yankees in July 2002. His time in New York ended rather unceremoniously as Mondesí was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks after an incident where he left the clubhouse early due to being taken out for a pinch hitter in the middle of game against the rival Boston Red Sox. He went on to play three more seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, LA Angels of Anaheim and Atlanta Braves before retiring in 2005 at the age of 34.
With an estimated $66M-plus career earnings and name recognition for being a professional athlete on an island with such a rich baseball history, Mondesí was first elected to office in the Dominican Republic in 2006. He continued to rise the political ranks despite reports of not having a full grasps of the issues and switching between the country’s two main political parties, the PRD & PLD.
That all came crashing down earlier last week, however, when Mondesí was found guilty, along with two other co-conspirators, of misappropriating over $6M of government funds. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of approximately $1.25M. He had previously been investigated for corruption in 2014, when he said that he didn’t need to steal public money because he was a millionaire from his playing days.
Mondesí’s 22-year-old son, Raúl Mondesí Jr., currently plays for the Kansas City Royals; the younger Mondesí was the first player in over 130 years to make his major league debut during the World Series, against the NY Mets in 2015.