Cuban baseball stars declare independence
You can’t beat Independence Day, especially if you’re a Cuban baseball player.
At BB&T BallPark on Saturday, I’m shooting video of the Cuban national team taking batting practice. After a couple of minutes, a member of the Cuban delegation walks up to me and isn’t particularly pleased. He checks my credential. Got it. “You can’t photograph training,” he says with a heavy accent. No problem, I say. His stance is understandable, considering Cuba and baseball defections are part of Cold War intrigue.
Perhaps he’s thinking I’m a professional scout or something. Can’t be a world power if you’re losing assets like a middle-aged man sheds hair that’s never to return.
Turns out, I wasn’t that far off. About the defections.
The Cubans, who are in town to play the U.S. collegiate national team, are short a pair of star players – third baseman Luis Yander La O and outfielder Yadiel Hernandez. They jumped ship in North Carolina sometime after playing in the Triangle. No wonder the PR guy was cranky when they hit Charlotte. The show goes on, though, for the Cubans, who are headed to the Pan American Games next week in Toronto.
As much as we make of the freedoms we espouse or lament have been swept away by our favorite evil forces, there’s something to be made of being on American soil. It’s still the land of opportunity, and certainly, Yander La O and Hernandez certainly understand it. They declared their independence to be their own men and find their way in this country.
Old habits die hard, though. Cuba is a communist country – the only one in the Western Hemisphere. Its kung-fu grip on liberty and freedom isn’t exclusive, though. When Americans don’t like our leaders, we vote them out or move. In Cuba, they head to America when opportunity knocks – perhaps in the dead of night.
Yander La O and Hernandez are free agents and certain to draw lots of interest and millions of dollars from Major League clubs. They’ll get paid what the market will bear for their talents, which is supposed to be the capitalistic way. They’ll get to decide their career fate, something we Americans lose sight of, because we’re accustomed to it.
I doubt many of us will migrate any farther south than Florida to find out different, though.