MLB, Cuba reach deal to keep baseball players from defecting

Cuban baseball players playing in the MLB will no longer have to defect to the United States to chase their dreams. 

Officials with the MLB and Cuban Baseball Federation reached an agreement that will allow Cuabn-born players to play in the U.S. in season and return home in the offseason. Previously, Cuban players were banned from returning to their home country. 

“The agreement, materialized after three years of negotiations, guarantees a collaborating relationship, stable and not politicized, between MLB and (the federation),” the Cuban baseball organization said.

Starting in 2009, Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig tried to defect to Mexico 13 times, in order to become a legal resident so he could become eligible to sign a contract in Major League Baseball. He was finally successful in 2012. 

Now they can retain their Cuban citizenship and play for the national team. 

For years, Cuban baseball stars risked their lives to escape the island to play in America. They faced uncertain and dangerous conditions as they were trafficked across the Gulf of Mexico. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the agreement helps address these safety concerns.

“For years, Major League Baseball has been seeking to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations by creating a safe and legal alternative for those players to sign with major league clubs,” he said. “We believe that this agreement accomplishes that objective and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball.”

Since the Obama Administration opened up greater dialogue with Cuba, the MLB has been working Capitol Hill to make sure it has government support for the deal. MLB spent $1.32 million lobbying last year and $999,000 through the third quarter this year on matters dealing with Cuba, according to financial-disclosure documents reported by Yahoo. 

There were 25 Cuban baseball players in the MLB last season. One of those stars was Chicago White Sox first-baseman José Abreu who defected from Cuba in 2013. 

“Knowing that the next generation of Cuban baseball players will not endure the unimaginable fate of past Cuban players is the realization of an impossible dream for all of us,” he said

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