Details about Jose Abreu's defection from Cuba emerge
Mike Axisa, CBS Sports
Every few weeks or so, we hear news that another player has defected from Cuba in hopes of making it big in MLB. It happens so often nowadays that these reports are easy to overlook. For every Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes, there are several players who flame out in the minors.
Most defection stories involve sneaking out of Cuba at night, often on a small boat or raft. Some, like Puig and Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez, had to make numerous attempts to leave the island before being successful. In Puig's case, he left the country with the help of smugglers who eventually demanded a ransom.
The details of White Sox slugger Jose Abreu's escape from Cuba have remained a mystery until now. Through a series of interviews, Jared Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune was able to piece together Abreu's defection story. It appears he made it out with his brother-in-law on his first attempt, leaving his wife, son and family behind.
Here are some snippets from Hopkins' story:
"I've heard Abreu's story, and I thought mine was crazy," said teammate and fellow Cuban native Adrian Nieto, who came to the U.S. on a raft with his family when he was 4.
"Him being on a little boat with just two motors and these two huge ships got in between them. He said the waves were 15 feet high and he thought they were going to drown. It's crazy."
Abreu told the Tribune he decided during last year's World Baseball Classic to defect.
"I realized I could go elsewhere with baseball," he said in Spanish. "Everyone knows we're here playing in the world's best baseball league. The differences [with Cuban baseball] include the level of professionalism among players here."
When Abreu reached the Dominican Republic, he lived in Santo Domingo, the nation's capital, and Santiago, about two hours north, said Amauri Morel, who works at Praver Shapiro Sports Management. Morel, based in the Dominican, said he provided "client services" to Abreu -- helping with housing, for example -- and brought the slugger to train at various parks and stadiums.
The White Sox signed Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract last offseason, which was a record for an international player at the time. He bought a modest house in Miami after signing the deal, where his parents and sister now live. It's unclear if Abreu's wife and son are still in Cuba.
Abreu did not share any details of his defection with the White Sox before signing his contract. Team president Kenny Williams told Hopkins that signing Abreu was "just like any other acquisition ... You try to get as much information as to the makeup of the player, mentally, emotionally. His makeup on the field -- Is he a leader? Is he a respectful-type person? Is he a flashy-type person? How does he fit into the team?"
Hopkins' article is quite long but well worth the read. It covers some more details about Abreu's life in Cuba as well as his transition to the United States. He is hesitant to discuss his defection but did say he was thankful for his newfound freedom. "In Cuba, people don't attain that. I'm thankful for my life, but it's something I've never experienced, and I'm thankful for everything."
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