Player Defects to US, Game Goes On
It's a show-down on the baseball diamond this weekend as team USA takes on Cuba for the first time on American soil since 1996.Photo: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE- It's a show-down on the baseball diamond this weekend as team USA takes on Cuba for the first time on American soil since 1996.
But the spotlight recently has shifted to what's happening off the field.
Twenty four Cuban baseball players boarded a plane to come to America and play baseball. But just 23 will be taking the field at Werner Park.
When they walk onto the field, they are competitors but in some cases following a dream.
Tuesday night, one of the Cuban players walked away from his team and country to pursue his dream of playing Major League Baseball.
“We sat down with our friends at the Cuban delegation, and we told them hey we're embarrassed and were apologetic,” says USA Executive Director Paul Seiler.
The player left a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa and walked to a waiting car. He's now seeking asylum in the US. Officials with USA Baseball would not talk much about the incident.
"It is what it is and we're hopeful that the action of one individual doesn't under mind the greater or bigger pictures," says Seiler.
The teams are staying at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in La Vista. Hotel officials wouldn’t comment on guests. Police Chief Bob Lausten says he was never contacted by USA Baseball or security officials to provide extra security at the hotel or the ball park.
“The security that we have from the front side to the back side is complete, we're confident in it, both from the US side and from the Cuba side,” added Seiler.
The FBI says defectors technically are not breaking any laws or committing any crimes.
As for the future of international series like this, Seiler says he sees more games in the future.
“We've been assured and said hey, don't worry about it this is not your problem this is not your fault, it's an issue and it is what it is and this doesn't change what we're trying to do here,” says Seiler.
It’s unclear exactly how the player defected. Family or possibly a baseball scout is thought to have helped him leave.
When a player does decide to defect, they typically request asylum from the U.S. Customs office.