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Venezuela Baseball Team Mourns Death Of Hugo Chavez Ahead Of WBC

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Venezuela pitcher Carlos Zambrano gestures on his way off the field after pitching to the Miami Marlin during the second inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in Jupiter, Fla.
Venezuela pitcher Carlos Zambrano gestures on his way off the field after pitching to the Miami Marlin during the second inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in Jupiter, Fla.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Venezuela's baseball team was taking pregame batting practice when players heard that president Hugo Chavez had died.

"He was a baseball man," manager Luis Sojo said after a 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins in a warmup game for the World Baseball Classic. "At the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, the first call in the morning was his. And after the game, he used to call me, too. It's a very sad moment for our country. We wish the best to his family, we know they are going through a tough time right now."

Chavez died Tuesday at age 58 after a nearly two-year fight against cancer.

"It's sad what's happening to our country," first baseman Miguel Cabrera said. "We send our condolences to his family. This is something you don't wish on anybody.

"I don't know how his family is right now. He's no longer with us – it's very sad. I cannot comment a lot on it because I feel a lot of pain, and I'm not there in Venezuela."

Pitcher Carlos Zambrano said he hoped his fellow Venezuelans would come together.

"I'm very sad. I ask that the Venezuela people stay calm," Zambrano said. "We have to understand that the president had a family. He's a human being and it's sad. We send him the condolences to the Chavez family. We know it's a difficult moment. This caught us by surprise."

Some players did not want to discuss Chavez's death. Pitcher Anibal Sanchez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval both declined when asked to comment.

A Venezuela spokesman said the team had requested a pre-game moment of silence for Chavez and asked that flags be flown at half-staff, but was told all parties involved – the Marlins, Major League Baseball and Roger Dean Stadium – were not prepared to do so.

"There are things we can't control," Zambrano said. "For the respect of Venezuela, they have to do something before the first game against the Dominican Republic (at the WBC in Puerto Rico)."

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