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Players in Mexico After Defecting

August 13, 2000

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) _ Two members of Cuba’s national junior team who defected at the world junior baseball championships have been spirited away to Mexico.

``It was not a spur of the moment decision,″ Ron Hayter, chairman of the group organizing the championships, said Sunday.

``This was all pre-planned, and when they got to Canada the arrangements were made for them to leave and get to Mexico.″

William Plaza, 17, a catcher, walked out of a dormitory and into a waiting car Saturday, said Joe Kehoskie, a U.S.-based player agent who helped the two defect.

Yolexandry Reina, 18, a pitcher, slipped away during a game last Monday, Kehoskie said.

Hayter said his contacts with the Cuban team told him that the two players were in Mexico.

Defections by Cubans at international sports events have drawn the anger of the country’s leaders.

About a year ago at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, 10 Cubans defected, including a 36-year-old softball coach.

The move prompted Fidel Castro to describe Canada as ``enemy territory.″

Hayter said there’s little organizers can do to prevent such schemes.

``We made it very clear at the start of this tournament that we, as an organizing committee, would hope that there would not be any incidents of this nature, but again we don’t have any control over it,″ he said.

``We can’t tie the players up and prevent them from moving around.″

He acknowledged the defections weren’t a surprise.

``Whenever you have a team like the Cubans with a lot of talent you are going to have scouts looking at them with envious eyes,″ Hayter said.

``Most teams who have participated here have already been scouted by the major league scouts, but it’s a little more difficult to gain access to the Cuban team and so this provided a good opportunity.″

Kehoskie described both players as ``ecstatic.″

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