Bullpen to federal pen this week for ex-White Sox pitching star

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Sixteen years ago this week, White Sox pitching sensation Esteban Loaiza was in Arizona for Cactus League spring training.

Fast forward to this Friday and Loaiza won't be standing on the pitcher's mound-he'll have both feet in front of a federal judge. U.S. prosecutors will ask that he be sentenced to 5 and a half years behind bars on drug charges, the I-Team has learned.

Loaiza will be looking for far less, between 18 and 24 months according to his attorney Janice Deaton.

Loaiza pleaded guilty last August to one felony count of possession with intent to distribute after police found 44 pounds of cocaine inside a minivan parked in the garage of a townhouse he had rented near San Diego.

Federal investigators believe the property, which they found empty of furnishings, was being used as a transshipment point for cocaine. The day Loaiza was arrested he had driven in from Mexico, authorities said.

The Mexican national was looking at a minimum of ten years in federal prison, although considering his lack of a serious criminal history the U.S. probation officer recommended only three years.

Regardless of the sentence, Loaiza, 47, is also likely to face deportation after serving whatever sentence he receives, prosecutors have said.

As the I-Team first reported when Loaiza was arrested more than a year ago, he claims to be broke-despite having made $43 million dollars during his 14-year career in major league baseball.

"If Mr. Loaiza lived a lavish lifestyle while playing baseball, he is not living like that now" states his attorney in their newly filed sentencing memo.

Investigators have not said whether Loaiza turned to the drug world because be needed income.

At Friday's sentencing hearing, Loaiza will be portrayed as a charitable man who quietly helped strangers, friends, family members and teammates.

"Mr. Loaiza treats people privately with the same generosity he treats charities and groups in public" states his attorney. "For example, Mr. Loaiza would give someone the shirt off his back and did just that, according to Ed Cassim, the Director of Team travel for the Chicago White Sox."

In a letter to the court Loaiza's attorney states that "Mr. Cassim tells of the time Mr. Loaiza wore a Hawaiian shirt to the field and one of the clubhouse employees told Mr. Loaiza he liked the shirt.5 Mr. Loaiza gave him the shirt at the end of the game."

Loaiza was also the husband of Jenni Rivera, the Mexican-American pop star who was among seven people who died in a 2012 plane crash. The 43-year-old superstar filed for divorce from Loaiza two months before the crash.

He was born in Tijuana, Mexico. In addition to pitching for the White Sox, Loaiza played for the Pirates, Yankees, Oakland A's, Dodgers and others. He plans to return to baseball in Mexico according to a newly filed sentencing memorandum-"perhaps at a university or for a professional team. Of course, his reputation and future earnings have been negatively impacted by this offense."
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