Cuban defectors organize

Numerous Cuban-born baseball players who defected to the United States said they are forming an association and will fight to be allowed to play in professional tournaments, include World Baseball Classic next March.

Because U.S. Treasury Department denied a license that would allow Cuba to participate World Baseball Classic, Cuban national team can not complete the inaugural 16-nation tournament.

Due to the commissioner’s office of Major League Baseball, in agreement with the International Federation Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association, they will not allow any independent teams to play in the WBC.

Even so, players who have major league experience include Rene Arocha and Osvaldo Fernandez, met with U.S. representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart and unveiled their plans to form the association and send letters to Major League Baseball, the player’s union and President Bush asking that they be allowed to represent Cuba.

“We represent Cuban baseball because we were born, were raised with and played that baseball in Cuba,” Eddie Oropesa, who has played for the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, said. “But because professional baseball is not allowed in Cuba we had to defect and leave our families behind and begin a new life.”

The players and representatives said they have at least 30 professionals who would form the team. Although they were not present, Washington Nationals pitchers Livan Hernandez and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Orlando Hernandez, support the idea.

“Cuban baseball players are only asking to have the same rights as other major leaguers, and to be able to participate in the World Classic and other such events,” said Cuban-American Diaz-Balart. “It would be totally unacceptable and an act of discrimination if these Cuban players do not have the chance of taking part in the World Classic.”

“MLB is willing to violate its own rules to support a terrorist government like Cuba’s, who made professional baseball disappear more than 40 years ago. The World Classic is a tournament for professional teams,” said Diaz-Balart.

“Cuban baseball players have put together a good idea by proposing to create this association, but they will not be able to participate in this year’s World Classic with such a team,” said Lou Melendez, vice president of Major League Baseball. “The tournament is sanctioned by the International Federation, of which Cuba is a member. The International Federation will not approve of any unofficial team”.

“Inviting a team other than the national team would bring that sanctioning into question,” Paul Archey, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president for international business said. Officials are still hoping that Cuba could be allowed to play. “We are in communication with the Cuba baseball federation as well as the Department of Treasury to try to address that concern.”

“It is completely irrational,” Lazaro Herrera Martinez, a spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., said earlier. “For us, baseball is our national sport … it is an activity that has nothing to do with politics.”

Observers think their effort is a long shot. ”It would be very unusual for there to be two groups that have the designation from the international federation to manage that sport in a given country,” Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee told the Miami Herald. The U.S. Olympic Committee recognizes the same international certification procedures that will govern the baseball tournament.

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