Four More Cuban Baseball Players Defect
MIAMI (AP) _ Cuba’s crackdown on those it said were helping its athletes defect prompted four defections from its national baseball team in Mexico, a Miami sports agent said.
Agent Joe Cubas, who has helped nine other Cuban baseball players in recent years, said Friday he met three players in a rural town in Mexico on Wednesday and helped them escape from the team’s hotel.
Cubas said 25-year-old first baseman Roberto Colina, outfielder William Ortega, 21, and infielder Jesus Ametller, 22, have hopes of playing professional baseball in the United States.
A fourth player, catcher Michell Hernandez, 21, had abandoned the team last Friday, without Cubas’ help. His whereabouts are unknown, Cubas said.
``I hope that announcing his name will protect him,″ Cubas said, shortly after flying into Miami. ``I feel that if something happens to him I hope that the news that he is no longer with the Cuban team will protect him.″
The men were part of the Cuban national team that was in Mexico to compete in an international tournament, Cubas said.
Colina’s family in Miami contacted Cubas on Sunday to ask that he help Colina and two other players defect.
After meeting with the family, he flew to Mexico on Tuesday and arranged to meet the players at their hotel in Emiliano Zapata, a small town in the state of Chiapas.
One other team member saw the players leaving with him, but otherwise they had no problems making their escape, Cubas said.
Cubas said he helped arrange their way into another country, which he would not name and where they will try to obtain residence before attempting to enter baseball as free agents.
Last week, Cuba’s sports authority suspended for life three top players on the national baseball team. Banned were shortstop German Mesa, catcher Alberto Hernandez, and pitcher Orlando ``El Duke″ Hernandez, all of whom the government said were involved in helping players chase the big money of American sports.
Orlando Hernandez, is a brother of Livan Hernandez, whom Cubas helped defect last year.
A Cuban-American, Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar, was arrested Aug. 12 at the World Youth Baseball Championship in central Cuba on charges of trying to help players defect.
Cubas said the clamp-down on those players in Cuba probably helped the four new defectors decide to leave.
The defections are only the latest in a series of by Cuba’s sports stars. Among the former defectors who became major league players are: Rene Arocha, Osvaldo Fernandez, Livan Hernandez, Vladimir Nunez, Ariel Prieto and Rolando Arrojo.