Cuban Baseball Players May Defect

The World Baseball Classic is coming up, providing the Cuban players an opportunity to defect:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – The possibility of defections hangs over the World Baseball Classic with Cuba’s best players in the U.S. Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico and the lure of big league baseball’s millions on display.

Major League Baseball, the Cuban federation of baseball and local promoters of the global tourney are downplaying security precautions over possible defections from the Olympic champs, stung by high-profile departures in the past, including those of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Jose Contreras.

But history and the very presence of the Cuban team in Puerto Rico this week keeps the door open to defections from the communist-ruled island. The worst mass defection came in 1993 in Puerto Rico, during the Central American and Caribbean Games, when 39 athletes and trainers jumped ship.

“We will give all the support to anyone (who defects),” said Miguel Angel Martinez, president of the local chapter of the Cuban American National Foundation, a leading Cuba exile group. “We will support them legally and in every facet.”

Katarina Witt said in an interview once that when she competed in the Olympics during the 80’s, the East German government held her family hostage to make sure she didn’t defect. I wonder of Castro will do the same with the Cuban baseball players’ families.

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