Ex-White Sox pitcher goes from bullpen to federal pen in 15 years

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fifteen opening days have come and gone for the White Sox since star pitcher Esteban Loaiza started the first home game of the 2003 season.

As the Sox opened their 2018 season on Thursday, Loaiza was 2,100 miles away in the MCC-San Diego, locked up on cocaine trafficking charges.

He is awaiting a decision this week on his appeal for a lower bond. A conviction on the charge would carry a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Despite having made $43 million dollars during his 14-year career in major league baseball, Loaiza's attorneys now say the 46-year-old former All-Star pitcher is broke and cannot come up with the $24,000 cash required for his release on bond.

Loaiza has been in custody since February 9 on charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute. He was arrested after 44 pounds of cocaine were found 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.

In their most recent court filing, Loaiza's attorneys have suggested a $120,000 bond fully secured by property, GPS monitoring and home detention. Prosecutors initially asked that Loaiza be detained because they said no conditions of bond could ensure that he wouldn't flee the U.S.

Defense attorneys said that a longtime Loaiza friend - and the mother of his child - were willing to put up equity in their Texas home as collateral for his bail. The ex-ballplayer's siblings were also said to be possible financial donors for bond.

"Regarding Mr. Loaiza's past earnings and how they might relate to a present indicator of wealth, all one need do to discover how common it is for professional athletes to go bankrupt or lose all their earnings within a few years, is get on the internet," his attorneys state in a court filing.

Investigators have not said whether Loaiza turned to the drug world because be needed income. Regardless, his star has fallen from where it was on the Sox home opener 15 years ago in 2003. After starting that game against the Detroit Tigers, Loaiza was also the winning pitcher - and went on to be an American League All-Star that season.

Following the 2003 opening day win on the South Side, Loaiza won 20 more games. He is still tied for the most-ever wins in a season (21) by a Mexican-born pitcher.
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