Baseball America’s Ben Badler, who has been on top of Villalona’s story every step of the way, broke the news on Thursday. According to his report, the now 22-year-old first baseman finally received his work visa — 15 months after his original application — and will officially report to camp with the San Francisco Giants next week.
In the time that's passed there's a chance you've forgotten Villalona's name and the bizarre circumstances that temporarily halted the career of what many believed to be a legitimate prospect.
While playing for the Giants Class A affiliate in San Jose in September of 2009, Villalona suffered an injury and was allowed to travel home to clear his mind in the company of friends and family. It was during that trip that Villalona was reportedly involved in an incident at a nightclub that resulted in the shooting death of a 25-year-old man. He was subsequently arrested, charged, and ended up spending three months in jail, but the murder charges were eventually dropped.
Murder charges were dropped for lack of evidence after Villalona paid the victim’s family a reported $139,000, so, no matter what anyone believes about the Dominican justice system, in the eyes of the law he did not commit a crime.
Well, that certainly doesn't put me at ease about this situation, but the law is the law.
From there, Villalona took the next step toward a return to baseball by filing a lawsuit against the Giants for breach of contract. This led to San Francisco reinstating him from the restricted list in October of 2011 and ultimately adding him to their 40-man roster on Nov. 19 of that year. It was at that point Villalona first applied for a work visa in the United States, but was denied by the government for being too out of shape to qualify or compete as an "elite athlete" in this country.
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So Villalona waited, worked himself back into shape by playing in the Dominican Summer League, and now his bizarre journey back to the United States will be complete once he arrives in Arizona and attempts to show the Giants brass what, if anything, he can offer on the field.
Truth be told, it's anything but a feel-good story. In fact, as Schulman points out in his piece, it has the potential to be quite awkward and the opportunity he's getting won't be easy for general manager Brian Sabean and others within the organization to explain.
Nevertheless, this is going to be awkward. A team that refused to reinstate Melky Cabrera for the postseason or re-sign him because he took performance-enhancing drugs is welcoming back a kid — Villalona is only 22 — whom many believe paid his way out of murder rap.
Yeah, that's going to make for an interesting quote or two from Sabean and perhaps even Bruce Bochy in the next couple weeks. We'll do our best to keep track of those and pass along any that are noteworthy, while also keeping an eye on Villalona's development.
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