Baseball star stands accused in journey from Cuba to big leagues

Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:52pm EDT
 
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By Zachary Fagenson

(Reuters) - As young Cuban slugger Yasiel Puig is earning millions on the baseball field with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a bizarre story of how the talented player escaped from the Communist-ruled island country is unfolding in U.S. court documents.

Puig ran a gauntlet of fast boats, Mexican drug smugglers and even death threats in his 2012 flight from Cuba, according to a $12 million lawsuit filed by a man who accuses the ballplayer of informing on him to Cuban authorities.

Puig has declined to comment on the allegations and his lawyer has filed a motion to have the case dismissed.

"I'm only focused on being a productive teammate and helping the Dodgers win games," Puig was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his agent.

A rookie sensation with the Dodgers last season, Puig succeeded in leaving Cuba two years ago by taking a boat to Mexico supplied by smugglers connected to the Zetas drug cartel, according to the affidavit of Yunior Despaigne, a Cuban boxer who fled the island with Puig.

The affidavit is part of the lawsuit filed in a Miami federal court by Miguel Angel Corbacho, a resident of Havana.

Corbacho alleges he was tortured and sentenced to seven years in prison in Cuba in 2010 after Puig wrongly told police that he was part of a conspiracy to smuggle the ballplayer off the island.

"Our client wasn't a smuggler," said Corbacho's attorney Kenia Bravo, saying he was accidentally swept up in Puig's earlier efforts to be smuggled out of Cuba.   Continued...

 
Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig attempts to make a diving catch of a fly ball off the bat of Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Phillips during the fifth inning of their MLB Cactus League spring training baseball game in Glendale, Arizona, March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso