Why do players and coaches defect from Cuba? LLWS skipper Jose Perez could join Yordan Álvarez among those who have made the switch

Why do MLB players leave Cuba?
Why do MLB players leave Cuba?

For more than sixty years, the relationship between the USA and Cuba has been tense at best, and potentially world-ending at worst. Like everything, this geopolitical issue has been reflected in sport.

After the 1959 Revolution, the newly established government of Fidel Castro quickly expelled all American diplomats and purused ties with the Soviet Union. Nearly seven decades later, the division still exists.

Since the 1959 Revolution, hundreds of baseball players have attempted to escape the island for a better life, and significantly more money, in the USA. However, due to US government policy, hopeful players need to establish residency in a third country before they can communicate with MLB front offices with regards to contract signings.

After Cuban team Bayamo qualified for their first-ever Little League World Series in 2023, coach Jose Perez went missing. Although Perez' whereabouts for uncertain, many believe that he has defected to the USA.

"Bet there will be changes made! Who is Jose Perez? Cuba's Little League World Series coach goes missing, raising suspicions of defection" - Hannah Banana and Charlie

One of the biggest names to defect was current Houston Astros star Yordan Alvarez. A native of the central city of Las Tunas, Alvarez defected to Haiti in 2016, where he was able to communicate directly with a variety of MLB teams.

One of the players on Jose Perez' Little League Cuban team is Luis Gurriel Jr., the nephew of Lourdes Gurriel, one of the best players ever from his homeland. Despite his notoriety, Gurriel only made a few dollars a week playing in his homeland, in stark contrast to the millions that MLB clubs could put up.

In 2016, both of Gurriel's sons - Yulieski and Lourdes Jr. - defected to Haiti. Yuli soon joined Alvarez as a member of the Astros while Gurriel would ink a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays before the end of that year.

"They leave and months later sign with an @MLB team. But what happens to Cuban baseball defectors in between?" - CBC6

Baseball players from Cuba continue to risk it all to make it to MLB

During March's World Baseball Classic, bullpen catcher Ivan Prieto defected in Miami. Such occurances have been common ever since Cuban baseball players and staff started to realize the opportunities across the Gulf. For now, all we can do is hope that relations are normalized, so that talent will not need to pass through such an ordeal.

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Edited by Adrian Dorney
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