Cuban baseball player Ivan Prieto has defected to the United States from Cuba during a baseball tournament. The catcher for Team Cuba reportedly becomes the first baseball player to defect from Cuba during a World Baseball Classic (WBC) tournament.
A reporter covering the WBC confirmed via Twitter that Prieto did not return home to Cuba following a loss to the American baseball team.
“Per @YordiMLB, Ivan Prieto (Cuba’s bullpen catcher) left the Cuban National Team last night prior to the team returning home from Miami this morning. He is now the first ever player to leave Team Cuba during a World Baseball Classic.”
Per @YordiMLB, Ivan Prieto (Cuba’s bullpen catcher) left the Cuban National Team last night prior to the team returning home from Miami this morning.
He is now the first ever player to leave Team Cuba during a World Baseball Classic. pic.twitter.com/a5xpsy8VFL
— Shawn Spradling (@Shawn_Spradling) March 20, 2023
The Spanish-language tweet from Carmona reads:
“El equipo Cuba viajó a la isla y el Catcher de Bullpen, Ivan Prieto no se montó en el vuelo.”
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
Spanish-language outlets reported Monday morning the Cuban team took a chartered flight from Miami to Cuba, but Prieto was not among the players. Tips from Cuban exile sources indicate they received information from Prieto’s home province of Holguín confirming his absence on the incoming team flight. They indicated he stayed in the United States, but had no other details as to where he is staying or who he is with.
The United States baseball team crushed Cuba in the WBC over the weekend, advancing to the next round. Cuba has not seen a top-four finish at the WBC since 2006.
USA flaunted its ridiculously deep lineup to overpower Cuba, 14-2, in the WBC semifinal on Sunday night at loanDepot Park. This marks the second time USA has advanced to the WBC final, as the defending champions are just 27 outs away from repeating. The dynamic red, white and blue offense now awaits the winner of Monday’s semifinal between Japan and Mexico.
The team’s 14-hit effort against seven different Cuban pitchers was the most complete performance we’ve seen from the Americans thus far. USA scored at least one run in seven of the eight innings it batted, including in each of the first six frames. With a lineup this loaded, Cuba’s mediocre pitching staff never stood a chance.
Cuba has suffered under a communist regime since 1959, when the Cuban Revolution overthrew brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista. Fidel Castro became the nation’s new leader, leading them into yet another brutal dictatorship that has kept Cubans poor and suppressed the island nation’s rich resources. Cuban refugees soon became a mainstay of Florida life as desperate families risked the oversea trip in an attempt to reach American shores. Florida’s “one-foot law” – in which Cuban refugees are granted asylum the moment one foot reaches a Florida shore – has led to a thriving immigrant community in places like Miami. The Obama administration curbed the policy in 2017, and Biden has continued to focus on turning away Cuban refugees, turning away over 250,000 so far.
The Cuban immigrant community has become an important voting block in Florida, which holds 29 electoral votes.
Spanish-language outlet EFE reported many fans at the baseball match wore t-shirts and held banners supporting the release of political prisoners in the communist country. They also displayed the phrase “Homeland y vida,” a song that became the anthem of protests against the communist regime back in July of 2021. There were also four arrests of protesters who ran onto the playing field with protest banners.
The Cuban exile in Miami took advantage of the match to ask for the freedom of the political prisoners and free elections in Cuba and inside the stadium, with a capacity for more than 36 thousand people , which was full, many spectators wore t-shirts with the legend “Homeland y vida” , the title of the song that was the anthem of the peaceful protests that broke out in Cuba on July 11, 2021.
Four people , among them the activist and graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto”, and the journalist and writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez, were arrested for throwing themselves onto the playing field with banners against the Cuban “dictatorship” during the semifinal of the World Baseball Classic.
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