Cuban Baseball Team Returns Home After Losing to USA, Then Group Realizes Who Was Missing on Flight
Cuba moved fast to ensure every athlete it sent to the World Baseball Classic in Miami made it back to the island.
Catcher Iván Prieto González moved faster and defected to the U.S. Sunday night after Cuba lost to the U.S. 14-2, according to the Miami Herald.
“According to sources, the Bullpen Catcher of the Cuba team, Ivan Prieto, escaped from the hotel and became the first ‘deserter’ of the Cuban delegation in this World Classic,” journalist Yordano Carmona tweeted (translation by Google Translate.)
“The team has already traveled to the island and the player was not on the plane. The Cuba team traveled to the island and Bullpen Catcher Ivan Prieto did not get on the flight,” he wrote.
El equipo Cuba viajó a la isla y el Catcher de Bullpen, Ivan Prieto no se montó en el vuelo. pic.twitter.com/JFrxuYoAAv
— Yordano Carmona (@YordiMLB) March 20, 2023
Gonzalez was picked up by his brother at the hotel where Cuba’s team had been staying.
The defector was not available for comment
Cuban rules mean anyone who flees from an official delegation, such as the team it sent to the World Baseball Classic, cannot enter the island for five years.
Gonzalez was the team’s bullpen catcher to help pitchers warm up and had played eight seasons in Cuban leagues.
Although the team returned one player short, Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel in a Monday ceremony called the players “heroes … that faced a powerful rival with dignity and amid tremendous hostility by a group of haters who, in a grotesque and indecent way, wanted to overshadow the sporting spectacle.”
Diaz-Canel was referring to Cuban exiles and protesters who greeted the team’s appearance on Sunday.
“We don’t want them here. None. People that work for the Castro family. We don’t want them. They can go any place they want. Go to New York. Go to California. Not Miami. I hope this is the last time they come here,” protester Jose Vilela said, according to the Daily Mail.
Political protests transform U.S.-Cuba WBC semifinal into something beyond baseball:https://t.co/CX6GcQiJbz #sanctions
— Empyrean Protocol (@empyreanprotoc1) March 21, 2023
The defection was celebrated by Cuban exiles in Florida, according to the Miami Herald.
“We welcome this Cuban brother to the land of the free. This ratifies our position that the protests weren’t against the baseball players, but against the regime that enslaves them,” said author and activist Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat, 57, whose family left Cuba in the 1970s.
“Anyone who seeks freedom must be welcomed,” said Ramón Saúl Sánchez, 68, president of a group that seeks more democracy in Cuba.
“The fact that a baseball player, who is better off than most Cubans on the island, had to escape from the security forces of the Cuban government, gives us a taste of what type of regime they have been made to live in,” the Democracy Movement leader said.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez noted that, to her, there was also meaning in what took place on the field in the 14-2 U.S. victory.
“Last night’s win for the United States was a resounding reminder that freedom always wins,” Nuñez said.
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