What does defect mean in baseball ? What does the term “defect” mean in baseball? The term is back in the spotlight after Ivan Prieto decided to defect after his team was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.
After the United States blasted Cuba 14-2 in the quarterfinals of the WBC, the Cuban players flew back to their home country. Prieto, however, opted to stay behind in Miami, Florida.
Defecting refers to leaving one’s country behind to play in another illegally. In the past, that was the only way Cuban baseball players like Luis Rober and Jose Abreu could play in the MLB.
A bullpen catcher like Prieto isn’t likely to make the majors any time soon, but he’s still interested in pursuing a life in the States rather than Cuba.
Which MLB stars have defected in the past?
To defect from Cuba is a big deal in baseball. This means that the MLB is more important than the country because Cuba makes its players choose one or the other.
Cuban baseball player defects after team’s loss to USA in World Baseball Classic
Ivan Prieto Gonzalez, Team Cuba’s bullpen catcher for the World Baseball Classic, defected in Miami on Monday, a day after his team lost to Team USA in the semifinals at loanDepot Park.
Prieto did not show up for the team’s flight to Havana, Cuba, at Miami International Airport, according to the Miami Herald’s Jorge Ebro.
Prieto was chosen by the Cuban Baseball Federation to be the team’s bullpen catcher when the team was picked to head to Taiwan for initial pool play.
The 26-year-old, who plays first base and catcher, had been playing with Alazanes de Granma as well as Sabuesos de Holguin in Cuba’s National Series League. He was with Holguin for five seasons before moving to Granma for the 2020-21 campaign.
Prieto also found himself playing for Agricultores in the Cuban Elite League in 2022.
The Cuban national team returned to Havana following a 14-2 rout by Team USA, and they were greeted with “an official reception by the authorities,” according to the Miami Herald. It was a victorious view in their eyes for the efforts that were displayed in the WBC.
However, the decision by Prieto to defect from Cuba is one that many baseball players have done before him. MLB is riddled with players who found a way to get over to the United States in order to live out their dreams as a professional baseball player, as Cuba still does not allow it to happen.
While leagues have since returned, many players who want a shot at playing in MLB make their way to the United States due to the high salaries. But Cuba has viewed defectors as disloyal to the country, which leads them to practically disown their ties to each other. That, however, led to more defectors over the years.
A famous instance was Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who rose to fame with the New York Yankees during their dynasty run in the late 1990s-early 2000s. He was banned from the Cuban national team following the defection of his half-brother, Livan Hernandez.
Cuban Catcher Iván Prieto Defects After 2023 WBC Semifinal vs. USA
Cuban baseball player Iván Prieto González defected from his home country when he didn’t board the team flight to Havana on Monday, according to the Miami Herald’s Jorge Ebro.
Cuba’s World Baseball Classic run came to an end Sunday with a 14-2 loss to the United States at LoanDepot Park in Miami. Prieto served as a bullpen catcher during the tournament.
Ebro reported the Cuban players were scheduled to fly out of Miami International Airport to return home on Monday, and when they did, Prieto was absent.
The 26-year-old played seven seasons for Sabuesos de Holguín and Alazanes de Granma in the Cuban National Series. He batted .291 with 13 home runs and 102 RBI in 257 games.
A number of baseball players have defected from Cuba over the years, either to pursue an MLB career or simply to leave their homeland behind.
Toward the final years of his time in office, President Barack Obama sought to ease diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. President Donald Trump didn’t maintain that policy upon assuming the Oval Office.
In April 2019, President Trump canceled a deal between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation that opened a formal pipeline between the two. The agreement would’ve allowed Cuban players to compete in MLB without having to defect.
In October 2021, 11 players defected during the U23 Baseball World Cup in Mexico.
Does Yoan Moncada’s Story Signal a New Type of Cuban Defection?
December of 1997, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez found himself stranded on a nameless rock in the middle of the sea. Fourteen years later, Yasiel Puig found himself in an anonymous hotel room, staring at a gun held by an alleged member of Los Zetas, a notorious Mexican drug cartel.
And then there’s Cuba’s latest great athletic export: Yoan Moncada, a 19-year old uber-prospect who suddenly appeared in Guatemala, without a harrowing defector tale and seemingly with Cuban officials’ blessing, even though he had yet to swing a bat in any league outside of Cuba. The Boston Red Sox won a bidding war, lavishing the shortstop with a $31.5 million signing bonus.
For the past two decades, Cuban ballplayers have found various illegal and illicit means to arrive at the pristine, shining diamonds of America’s major league cities. It took 10 years for the first 30 Cuban ballplayers to leave Cuba. Now there are roughly another 75 Cuban players searching for contracts, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, all of whom presumably not only defected but, like El Duque, Puig and many others, were smuggled out of Cuba.
What started as a trickle is becoming a strong current of Cuban talent flowing along a pipeline that started with Rene Arocha’s defection in 1991. The stream of Cuban talent would be unremarkable except for the international set of circumstances in which Cuban ballplayers operate in order to pursue their craft outside of Cuba.
Moncada warranted such lavish attention, given his skills and rapid ascent through the ranks of Cuban baseball. A swift switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, he was Cuba’s best teenage ballplayer, a once-in-a-generation talent.
The world became aware of Moncada when he starred for Cuba’s national team at the U16 IBAF 2011 World Baseball Championships in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico, as the only Cuban named to the tournament’s All-Star team. Born in the Las Quinientas neighborhood of Abreus in the province of Cienfuegos, he led Cuba’s U16 national league in batting average (.500), OBP (.643), slugging (.918), home runs (8) and walks (37) while going 15-for-15 in stolen bases as a 15-year-old.
At 16, he repeated this type of play in the U18 league, leading the league in offensive categories by hitting .434/.543/.648 in 152 plate appearances with a league-best 20 steals in 24 tries. He more than held his own as a 17-year-old rookie for Cienfuegos (.283/.414/.348 in 172 plate appearances with 13 stolen bases in 18 attempts) in Cuba’s Serie Nacional.
So how did Moncada manage to make such a routine exit from Cuba despite falling under MLB’s recent, somewhat draconian rules for signing international free agents?
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