New York (AFP) - As Major League Baseball players prepare to start a coronavirus-shortened season after a battle over money, long-retired outfielder Bobby Bonilla is laughing all the way to the bank -- again.
Bonilla was paid $1.19 million (1.05 euros) by the New York Mets on Wednesday, the latest installment on an incredible deal the Mets signed that will see them pay him a total of $29.8 million on an original debt of $5.9 million.
It's why Mets fans have come to see July 1 as "Bobby Bonilla Day" as their club will pay him $1,193,248.20 on that day every year through 2035 -- when he will be 72 -- for a season in which Bonilla didn't even play for the team.
Six-time All-Star Bonilla, now 57, played from 1986 through 2001 for eight different clubs, helping the then-Florida Marlins capture the 1997 World Series crown.
The Mets signed Bonilla to a five-year deal worth $29 million in December 1991, making him MLB's highest-paid player from 1992-1994 before they traded him to Baltimore in 1995.
Bonilla went to Florida in 1997 and after a title run was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who sent him back to the Mets after the 1998 campaign.
A disappointing 1999 season prompted the Mets to release Bonilla, but they still owed him $5.9 on his contract for another season.
Bonilla and his agent offered the Mets a deal -- Bonilla would delay the payment until 2011 and then take the payout annually over time with 8% interest.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon took the deal because he thought his investments with Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff would pay him 10% in returns, more than covering the Bonilla payout.
But the Madoff scheme unraveled after the 2008 MLB season, uncovering an epic fraud that bilked thousands out of more than $64 billion.
Bonilla's annual salary is more than some current MLB standouts will make this year, when players are having to take a pro-rated portion of their salary for a schedule that has been reduced to 60 games per team.
MLB plans to open the MLB season on October 23 with teams playing in home stadiums without fans due to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.