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Agent: Cuban Defectors Found Alive

March 22, 1998

MIAMI (AP) _ Four Cuban baseball players and a coach who defected from the communist island more than a week ago were rescued at sea and taken to a small Bahamian island, a baseball agent said Saturday.

The crew of a fishing vessel plucked them out of the rickety boat Friday afternoon and turned them over Saturday to Bahamian officials on Ragged Island, said Joe Cubas, an agent who has helped several Cuban baseball players flee the island.

In addition to the four players and the coach, four other Cubans were on the boat and were rescued, Cubas said.

``They’re all in very good condition,″ Cubas said.

Cubas said he spoke by phone to the wife of the captain of the fishing boat, the 53-foot Justice, who held the phone up to a shore-to-ship radio, so he could hear the voices of the players.

The Justice was anchored in Bahamian waters Friday night when the small boat carrying the nine defectors drifted into them, the wife of captain Joshua Bastian told The Associated Press by phone from Nassau.

``My husband gave them some money so they could call their families. He said they were doing fine,″ said Mrs. Bastian, who didn’t want her first name used.

Teresa Moxey Ingraham, the Bahamian immigration minister, was not home Saturday night to comment immediately, her husband said.

Cubas said he planned to ask Bahamian officials not to repatriate the defectors. He said he also planned to ask Costa Rica to grant visas to the entire group.

The defectors fled late the night of March 10 from the city of Holguin in eastern Cuba.

The players, former members of the national team, were catcher Angel Lopez, 25; first baseman Jorge Luis Toca, 23; second baseman Jorge Diaz, 23; pitching coach Enrique Chinea, 41; and Michael Jova, a 17-year-old shortstop from Cuba’s junior Olympic team.

All five were banned from baseball on the Caribbean island in July because Cuban authorities suspected they were planning to defect.

The other defectors were identified as Ernesto Perez Toma, 28; Giovani Pena Gonzalez, 25; Pedro Ferrer Chacon, 30; and Jose Roche, 27.

An inaccurate report Friday said the five players had landed in the Dominican Republic.

Ragged Island, one of the southernmost Bahamian islands, is located about 80 miles off the north coast of Cuba.

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