Cuban baseball player deserts after World Classic

MIAMI – The Center for a Free Cuba in Washington confirmed that Iván Prieto, a bullpen catcher for Cuba’s national baseball team, defected after the World Baseball Classic in Miami on Sunday.

The Cuban Family video shows the Cuban national team at Miami International Airport as they prepared to return to Cuba and Prieto was not there.

Outspoken activist and critic of the Cuban government, Ramón Sánchez, spoke about how it was probably not an easy task for Prieto to part ways with the team, management and staff who many believe have been closely watching every player for fear they might defect.

“Just before boarding the plane, he just disappeared, so we suspect he has defected. They tried. We found out that they had been kept on a bus for a couple of hours just before the game trying to contain them,” Sánchez said.

This year’s season marked the first time since 2006 that the Cuban national team had advanced to the semifinals.

The incident comes after a game that sparked much controversy with protesters including Carlos Álvarez, Antonio Fernández and Danilo Maldonado-Machado seizing the moment at Loan Depot Park on Sunday. The trio ran onto the field carrying a banner that read: “Freedom for Cuban prisoners arrested on July 11.”

Hundreds of people were arrested in Cuba after protesters took to the streets on the communist island in July 2021.

Antonio Fernandez, Danilo Maldonado-Machado and Carlos Alvarez face trespassing charges for protesting during the World Baseball Classic at Loan Depot Park in Miami. (Copyright 2023 by WPLG – All rights reserved.)

“They are not alone, and we are going to do what we can until they are free,” Maldonado-Machado said.

The three protesters were arrested on Sunday but have since been released from jail. They have a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

Prieto is the only player believed to have defected.

“Everyone wants to live in a free county. Even as baseball players in Cuba they are a little better. Come on, they earn $30 a month,” said Sánchez.

The Cuban government has yet to respond to reports of Prieto’s defection.

It is not known if Prieto will receive asylum in the United States.

Copyright 2023 by WPLG – All rights reserved.


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