Never before has a Cuban baseball team suffered seven defections during an international tournament.
The figure was recorded during the knockout round of the Under 23 World Championship held in Ciudad Obregón, the Mexican state of Sonora.
The contest, sponsored by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC), has entered the so-called Super Round with the six best classified, among which Cuba could enter despite the losses that, if they continue to progress, could lead to danger the permanence of the Caribbean team in the contest.
Starting this Wednesday, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela and Taiwan will play the Super Round in the city of Hermosillo, almost 1,900 kilometers from the Mexican capital. The first two teams in this new phase will contest the title in a final match on Saturday.
The highest number of dropouts for a Cuban team in this sport had been quantified in 1996, also in Mexico, with five players.
The road to the border with the United States is the usual thing for Cuban athletes once they distance themselves from their official delegations on Mexican soil.
So far this year there are ten top-level Cuban baseball players who have left the team abroad. Last May, three players, pitchers Lázaro Blanco and Andy Rodríguez, and infielder César Prieto, stayed in Miami during the Pre-Olympic Tournament of the Americas in Florida.
In that tournament, Cuba, three-time Olympic baseball champion, was eliminated and became the great absentee from the Tokyo 2020 tournament won by Japan.
The last escape in Ciudad Obregón was confirmed on Tuesday morning, when the left-handed pitcher Yeinel Zayas did not show up to take the bus in front of the hotel that houses the Caribbean team and that would take him to the stadium hosting the competition.
Similarly, before Zayas, pitchers Luis Dennys Morales, Uber Mejías, and Danel Fernández, receiver Loidel Rodríguez, outfielder Reinaldo Lazaga and infielder Diasmany Palacios had also escaped.
The team has seen its squad suddenly reduced to 17 players, with a single replacement player for defense, two receivers in a position where the risk of injury is high, and seven pitchers, to face five games before reaching the discussion of medals.
The team’s manager, Eriel Sánchez, tried to minimize the situation he is going through, although he acknowledged that he has been forced to alter the plans and demand the maximum effort from the players.
“We have to sacrifice each athlete to achieve the result,” he said in reference to the effort of his pitcher. left-hander Naykel Cruz, whom he kept on the mound for six innings with more than the stipulated 100 pitches. “I’ll apologize”
After losing to defending champion Mexico on Friday, Cuba was able to link four victories against Taiwan, Germany, the Czech Republic and the Dominican Republic.
The head of the Cuban delegation, Luis Daniel del Risco, declared that “despite the fact that many people want to end our baseball, we are not going to let that happen,” in clear reference to desertions.
Cuban authorities blame the leaks on former President Donald Trump’s decision to disable an agreement the Cubans had reached with Major League Baseball at the end of Barack Obama’s term.
The agreement allowed baseball players from the island to participate in the competition system of the US Major Leagues without having to desert.
Trump considered that the Cuban Baseball Federation was not really a Non-Governmental Organization, but an extension of the Cuban Government.