08/25/13 - Prince George Citizen - Defected Cuban player might be joining his wife in US
If Yozzen Cuesta, the Cuban baseball player who defected from the World
Baseball Challenge in Prince George on Wednesday, makes it to the United
States he'll be warmly received by at least one person south of the border.
His wife defected from Cuba three months ago and is believed to be now in
But it will not be an easy choice for the 22-year-old first baseman,
considered a prime prospect to play professional baseball. If Cuesta does
request diplomatic immunity in the U.S. or Canada, for him to play as a pro
he will have to enter the Major League Baseball draft. If, on the other
hand, he goes to the diplomatic representatives of a Latin American country
and gains landed immigrant status in one of those countries, he would
became a free agent and that will increase his ability to land a
multimillion-dollar contract with a major league team.
"We believe he left Prince George by car and we're not sure if his next
step will be to try to enter the United States or try to go to a consulate
and ask for asylum and to be transported to a country such as Guatemala, El
Salvador or Mexico," said Jim Swanson, co-chair of the WBC.
"If he's no longer a Cuban resident and he holds a passport of one of those
other countries he can sign with a major league team. He won't want to stay
in Canada because then he would be subject to the major league draft, but
if he goes to a Central American country he becomes a free agent and then
he goes to the highest bidder.
"If it's a family decision based on his wife, and baseball is something he
doesn't want to pursue, he'll probably go to the United States."
The Tigres won the WBC title Thursday night at Citizen Field with a 14-4
win over JX-Eneos of Japan, the day after the team discovered Cuesta was
missing. He played in six games in the WBC for the Ciego de Avila Tigres,
his club team in Cuba. Although Cuban authorities knew about Cuesta's
wife's defection, Swanson said he was not labeled as a high risk to flee
the country because his brother Victor is the commissioner of sport for
Ciego de Avila province.
"He was considered to be their young up-and-coming player," said Swanson.
"We know the name of the agent who was behind this but we can't prove it.
The same agent was here [for the WBC tournament] in 2011."
A Cuban team official told Swanson that Cuesta left without his passport.
According to Swanson, an RCMP officer him the RCMP and a Canadian
government representative met Thursday with the agent believed to have led
Cuesta out of the city. Faith St. John, a communications officer for the
Canadian Border Services Agency in Vancouver, said she was not at liberty
to discuss any details of Cuesta's case.
In the two years Cuba has been involved in the Prince George tournament --
2011 and 2013 --several Cuban players with connections to the WBC have been
involved in defections.
On Aug. 11, Jose Dariel Abreu, an all-star first baseman in the 2011 WBC,
ditched his Cuban Cienfuegos club team while travelling in Haiti, later
crossing to the Dominican Republic. During the 2011 WBC, while Abreu was
shopping at the Prince George Wal-Mart Swanson said Abreu was approached by
a player agent who handed him a cell phone and a business card which had
"$60 million" written on the back of the card.
Pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, also a member of the 2011 national team,
defected in February this year and last month signed a $48 million six-year
contract to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, the richest contract ever
offered to a Cuban baseball player, although there is speculation that deal
not be scuttled over concerns about the health of Gonzalez's elbow.
"There was another player here this week and word was given to him that an
agent in Prince George could get him an $80 million contract," said
Yasiel Puig, now an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers, defected
shortly after the 2010 WBC. At the time, Swanson said Puig wasn't
considered good enough to make the Cuban national team that travelled to
Prince George. Yoenis Cspedes, now a starting outfielder for the Oakland
A's, was part of that national team at the time and was due to play in the
WBC but was involved in a fatal accident in which a pedestrian was hit by
his vehicle. Rather than face possible persecution, Cspedes, left the
country illegally and never returned.
"We had purchased the [airline] ticket for Yoenis Cspedes," said Swanson.
"It turned out he was found not at fault [in the accident], but he had that
"They definitely do look at players who they know are loyal to the
political situation there and have strong family ties and that's up to
them. They choose their team."
Rusney Castillo, one of three members on the Tigres club team who played
for the Cuba national team in March at the World Baseball Classic, did not
come with the Tigres to Prince George. Swanson was told that was due to a
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