For a lot of people, being a professional athlete is a dream job. For the lucky few with the talent, they can devote their youth to a game they love and make it to the top level of their sport. With that often comes plenty of fame and plenty of fortune.
The downside to athletic careers is they end a lot sooner than most. Where most folks retire somewhere north of 60, pro athletes over 40 are hard to come by. And when someone retires from sports so young, they often start up a second career. But for one pro athlete, his choice of post-sport career would come with serious repercussions…
A Good Run
By any measurement, Esteban had a pretty good baseball career. After graduating from Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach, California in 1991, he went straight into the minor leagues, first playing for the Gulf Coast Pirates. After 4 years of plugging away and moving around from team to team, he made his way into the major leagues.
The Big Leagues
Loaiza made his major league debut in 1995, pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Philadelphia Phillies, which would be the first win of his pro career. He would play for the Pirates for 3 more years before being traded to the Texas Rangers in 1998, then the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000…
The peak of Loaiza’s career would come in 2003 after he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. That season, he lead the American League in strikeouts, finished second for the Cy Young Award, and was the starting pitcher for the All-Star Game. It was the kind of year that any athlete could be proud of.
Unfortunately, Loaiza would never perform as well as he did in that 2003 season. His performance slipped gradually each year and he was traded to 5 different teams from 2004 to 2008, before being ultimately released from the White Sox’s roster while on the disabled list…
If you are perhaps feeling a little bad for Loaiza about the lackluster end to his career, keep in mind that he earned over $43 million in the 14 seasons he played professional baseball. By comparison, most folks earn somewhere between $1 and $2 million working for their whole lives.
A few years shy of his 40s, Loaiza was already set for life. When he got married in 2010 to Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera it seemed like he was settling down into a life of leisure and luxury. But unfortunately, things wouldn’t go quite so easily…
In just 2 short years after they were married, things between Loaiza and Rivera had already gone south. Rivera filed divorce papers in October of that year but before it was finalized, Rivera would be tragically killed. As she was flying from one performance to another, her private plane would crash, killing all 5 people on board.
Loaiza filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the aircraft’s owners in 2014, something Rivera’s family said was just a cash-grab. The lawsuit would eventually fizzle out but there must have been some truth to the Rivera’s claim that Loaiza was hungry for money because when police stopped his car in 2018, they made a damning discovery…
Red and Blue Lights
Loaiza had just recently started renting a home in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, California, close to the US-Mexico border. He was driving away from that home one day when police pulled him over for a minor traffic infraction…
Keep An Eye On It
Before they had pulled him over, the police already had his vehicle under surveillance as they suspected it was being used to smuggle drugs. When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated secret compartment inside the car…
Though the compartment in Loaiza’s car was empty at the time, it certainly could have been used to smuggle drugs and finding it was enough for investigators to obtain a warrant to search Loaiza’s home.
Loaiza was in deep trouble once the authorities searched his home. Inside his garage, they found over 44 pounds of cocaine hidden in duffel bags and wrapped up in such a way that they appeared to have been transported from Mexico to the US for distribution around the country.
With a street value of over $500,000, having that much cocaine in his possession certainly seemed to suggest that Loaiza was a part of some larger drug smuggling and distribution operation.
The news came as quite the surprise to some people close to Loaiza. “I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation,” said Loaiza’s agent John Boggs. “I don’t know how he would get himself involved in this.”…
Loaiza was arrested and charged with Possession of Cocaine over 20 Kilograms, Possession of Cocaine for Sale, and Transportation of Cocaine. His bail was set at $200,000, which should have been no problem for someone of his means to pay.
But when Loaiza appeared in court on March 20th, his attorney requested that the judge reduce the bond required to get him out of jail from $200,000 to $120,000. The reduced bond would allow Loaiza to use a property bond on a house he owns in Dallas, Texas. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to pay…
Missing the Money
Loaiza’s inability to come up with $200,000, less than half of 1% of the $43 million he’d earned during his baseball years suggested he was dead broke or close to it. That cushy life he had laid out for himself when he retired from the sport was like a distant memory.
Perhaps the promise of quick money — and lots of it — is what motivated Loaiza to enter the drug smuggling business, which it had appeared he had. But unlike with baseball, he didn’t quite have the talent to make it to the top…
If convicted of the charges he was facing, Loaiza could be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison. If that happened, the 46-year-old would get out just around the age that most normal folks retire, though likely with less saved up.
Not Above The Law
Loaiza’s case is another reminder that, when it comes to the law, no accomplishments or celebrity can protect you. “It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living —what you used to do for a living — you will be prosecuted justly and fairly under the laws of the state,” Deputy District Attorney Ryan Karkenny said.