Monday, November 10, 2014

Report sheds light on Jose Abreu's defection from Cuba

Report sheds light on Jose Abreu's defection from Cuba
By Mark Townsend
16 hours ago
Big League Stew

A little more than a year after Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose
Abreu arrived in the United States and inked what at the time was an
international free agent record six-year, $68 million contract with the
Chicago White Sox, the circumstances and details surrounding his
defection from Cuba remain shrouded in mystery.

However, with Abreu's first major award expected to be announced on
Monday — he's the heavy favorite to win American League Rookie of the
Year — the Chicago Tribune's Jared Hopkins was able to reveal a few
basic details in an in-depth article published on Friday.

The article itself is lengthy and detailed, particularly when Hopkins
lays out the harrowing process and journey defectors often face just to
pursue a baseball dream and support their families. It's worth a full
read through to gain a better understanding or a refreshed perspective
of the process Abreu and many before him, including Yasiel Puig and Jose
Fernandez, have faced. In fact, in the case of both Puig and Fernandez,
it was something they had to face more than once after their initial
attempts failed.

As for specifics In Abreu's case, concrete details really are few and
far between. However, through a series of interviews, Hopkins filled in
a few blanks and provide something of an outline leading up to and
throught the defection itself. Here's a quick rundown.

• Abreu and his brother-in-law left Cuba last summer. They were
traveling in a small boat that was nearly overwhelmed by the wake
created by two large ships that passed by.

"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 landed and established residency in Haiti, before moving to the
Dominican Republic to resume training. He was there approximately three

That same month, the Orioles' Henry Urrutia — who defected in 2011 —
told that Abreu had called him from an "undisclosed location" to
say he had successfully escaped. Less than a week later, agents who
represent Urrutia announced they were planning to showcase Abreu.
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.
• It's believed he was successful in his first escape attempt.

Unlike Puig and others, Abreu never was reported to have been caught
trying to escape, suggesting he may have made it out on his first try.
Puig wasn't successful until his fifth attempt to flee to Cuba. Of
course, leaving Cuba was just part one of his horrifying journey.

• Abreu made his decision to defect during last year's World Baseball

"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."
Abreu has not indicated whether or not he paid smugglers to help him
flee Cuba. As Hopkins' notes, one of his agents, Bart Hernandez, was
linked to alleged smugglers in a 2012 civil court case filed by Texas
Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin. The connection is easy to draw, but
Abreu, his agents, and his parents, who arrived in the United States
during the season, have all remained silent when that subject is broached.

Because of that silence, Abreu's trek remains mostly a mystery. What
isn't a mystery is the impact he's had already on the White Sox and the
impression he's making in the United States. At 27, he still has many
prime seasons ahead of him.

Source: Report sheds light on Jose Abreu's defection from Cuba | Big
League Stew - Yahoo Sports -

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