I don’t know who has a more miserable Father’s Day: Jelena Dokic or the kids of former big leaguer Troy Neel. Sure, Dokic’s dad might have been overbearing, insane and quite possibly abusive, but at least he was there. Versus Neel’s two children, whose father has not only not been around, but has been hiding out living on a Polynesian island to avoid making more than $760,000 in child support payments.
But the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS says that Neel has finally been caught, and will plead guilty today in a San Antonio courtroom. Neel played for three years for the Oakland A’s, and then moved on to make a nice career for himself in Japan. But as part of a settlement from a divorce in 1997, Neel was ordered to pay $5,000 a month in child support for his two children.
Neel’s solution? Move to the other side of the world and find an island country where American money could go far and that had favorable extradition laws. Hello Vanuatu, a small island between Australia and Fiji, where he purchased some property called Erakor Island Resort and become a well-known figure on the island.
Neel claimed in a Vanuatu newspaper (printed on coconuts) that he wanted “to sort out this issue in the U.S.A. and intend (on) obtaining a ticket to go back voluntarily,” but the U.S. government decided to speed things up for him, revoking his visa and eventually pressuring Vanuatu to extradite him.
Now, I understand that divorces happen and that things are never black and white. And perhaps $5,000 a month was a bit much to expect a part-time big leaguer like Neel to pay. But if it’s money to spend to help your children out, you do it, court-appointed or not. Nothing is more gutless than running away and playing Mr. Roarke on your own little Fantasy Island while abandoning your children. Way to stay classy, Troy.