PANAMA CITY — Just weeks after becoming baseball's first unanimous Hall of Fame selection, Mariano Rivera is defending himself from accusations in his native Panama that he has failed to support two children he had outside his marriage.
The former New York Yankees' closer on Tuesday called the demands filed against him in the Central American country "unfounded."
"I have always acted ... as a good family father," the 49-year-old told local media.
Rivera's comments came as he is being asked to appear before Panamanian judicial authorities to answer accusations that he has failed to fulfil his obligations to support the boy and girl, ages 11 and 15.
"He came to clean up his image before the media, instead of notifying authorities and facing the process" against him, said Yovany Wyznick Ortega, a lawyer for the children's mother.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Ortega alleged that Rivera and the children had "always shared" but that the former player stopped seeing them and "abandoned" them two years ago.
"He stopped paying for things for his children and put them in an economically critical situation," she said.
The lawyer said Rivera faces five suits filed several months ago. She said that if he does not appear before judicial authorities, she will ask that he be prevented from leaving the country.
Little was known of the accusations against him until Feb. 11, when reports that a hearing called by Rivera's attorneys did not take place began appearing in local media.
Rivera lives in New York but was back in Panama on Tuesday. He gave an unexpected radio interview, then appeared before local media with his lawyers and offered a brief written statement.
"It is true that I face demands in the courts, all without foundation, which are affecting my children whom I love with all my heart," the statement said.
Rivera is married and has three children from the marriage.
In late January, Panamanians celebrated when Rivera became baseball's first unanimous Hall of Fame selection and only the second Panamanian selected to the hall. The other is Rod Carew.
Rivera is baseball's career saves leader with 652 in regular season play, and he had 42 more in post-season games.
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