O's Ponson apologizes for behavior in Aruba

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ORANJESTAD, Aruba - Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson apologized for his behavior yesterday and asked for forgiveness from the judge he allegedly struck during a Christmas Day beach fight that led to his 11-day detainment, which ended Tuesday.

Ponson spoke at a news conference at the Queen Beatrix International Airport shortly before boarding a plane for Florida, where he plans to remain until reporting to the Orioles' spring training camp next month.

He read a statement in Papiamento, a local language of Aruba, and took no questions.

"Speaking to all of Aruba, I want to say publicly that I am not proud of what happened on the 25th of December, and the manner I have behaved myself on the beach," Ponson said. "I want to publicly ask [the judge] to forgive me. I also want to apologize to the others involved in the incident."

Ponson, 28, is scheduled to stand trial here March 3. He faces three charges: violence in public directed against other persons; attempted assault and battery; and premeditated assault and battery.

His attorney, Chris Lejuez, said Tuesday there was reason to be "very optimistic" Ponson's sentence wouldn't include more time in jail.

Easily Aruba's biggest sports star, Ponson apologized to the country's youth yesterday for making headlines in this fashion.

"I know they consider me their role model. I want them to know that this hurts me very much and I feel very sorry for what has happened and will try not to have it happen again," Ponson said.

"I want to say thank you to [everyone] who has stood behind me. To all those who have criticized me, I respect your opinion and I hope to gain your respect. To the press, I respect your job, and I'm sure all the publicity given to me was meant to be constructive and to help me."

The news conference attracted about two dozen members of the Aruban media, plus Ponson's mother and sister and friends such as Eugene Kingsale, the former Orioles outfielder who is also from Aruba.

After the news conference, Ponson flew to Florida with his agent, Barry Praver, and Chu Halabi, the Orioles' Aruban scout, who signed Ponson and still counsels him.

Halabi said Ponson would resume throwing next week and "should be ready right on schedule" for spring training.

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