Cuba rules out letting defectors play in national baseball team

Thu Apr 28, 2016 3:09pm EDT
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By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba will uphold its ban on baseball players that defected from the Communist-ruled island from playing for the national team at international events, a top government official told Reuters, quashing speculation that changes in the rules may be afoot.

Most Cubans with big league dreams leave the island illegally given that there is no deal on formal player transfers between Cuba and Major League Baseball, the organization that runs professional baseball in North America.

A record 150 players defected in 2015, draining the country of its best talent. Those defectors are sometimes banned from setting foot back in Cuba for years.

But with U.S.-Cuban relations improving, the Cuban government's stance on defectors has softened and many were hopeful it might allow defectors to join the national team for the World Baseball Classic next March.

Antonio Becali, Cuba's top government official for sports, said the country would continue to field players from its own teams.

"Our athletes that are within the Cuban sporting system and our national series are those that will continue to represent us at international events," he said on the sidelines of a news conference about Cuba's teams for the Olympics.

"Our principles are the principles of the revolution," said Becali.

Last year the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations after a 54-year break. MLB and Cuban officials have also started talks on normalizing player transfers.   Continued...