No American should forget or ignore that the record five Cubans playing in this year’s World Series all fled communism for the opportunity to live in freedom.
Opinion: When you cheer for Cuban Astros players, remember why they defected
Yordan Álvarez. Aledmys Díaz. Yuli Gurriel. What do three Astros players vying for the title of World Series champions have in common with their opponents, Guillermo Heredia and Jorge Soler of the Atlanta Braves? They each made the decision to defect from Cuba — and have opportunities denied to them in their homeland — in order to realize their immense talent in the United States. To play in Major League Baseball means to forfeit life in Cuba and be branded a traitor by the Cuban government.
During historic protests in July, Cubans shouted “Patria y Vida” or “Homeland and Life,” expressing their desire to control their own destiny and that of their home — something impossible to achieve if the current regime stays in power. While food shortages and lack of access to vaccines played a part in spurring the protests, as noted in this summer’s media coverage, the overwhelming message is that political change is what the people seek. Americans and the U.S. government should not mistake the Cuban people’s demands for liberty as a sign of being unpatriotic, but rather as a form of optimism rooted in loyalty to their country.
A few weeks ago, at least nine of the 24 players on Cuba’s national baseball team sent to compete in Mexico for a tournament made the same decision these MLB players made: to defect. Cuban officials labeled this spell of defections as “vile abandonments” and swiftly slandered the young ballplayers as possessing “weak morals and ethics.” Individuals labeled “deserters” are banned from entering Cuba for at least eight years and their family members are prohibited from leaving the country to join them.
Three Cuban players defected during an Olympic qualification tournament in May, and for the first time in its history, the Caribbean nation failed to qualify for Olympic baseball. This contrasts with Cuba’s illustrious run that earned them three gold and two silver medals; for comparison, the U.S. has won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
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