As if the pummeling the communist Castro dictatorship’s team received from Team USA and the Cuban exile protests broadcast all over Cuba were not embarrassing enough for the regime, they also lost one player to defection. Bullpen catcher Ivan Prieto Gonzalez never showed up for the early morning flight back to Cuba on Monday, becoming the first Cuban player to defect during the World Baseball Classic.
Cuban baseball player defects after team’s loss to USA in World Baseball Classic
Ivan Prieto Gonzalez, Team Cuba’s bullpen catcher for the World Baseball Classic, defected in Miami on Monday, a day after his team lost to Team USA in the semifinals at loanDepot Park.
Prieto did not show up for the team’s flight to Havana, Cuba, at Miami International Airport, according to the Miami Herald’s Jorge Ebro.
Prieto was chosen by the Cuban Baseball Federation to be the team’s bullpen catcher when the team was picked to head to Taiwan for initial pool play.
The 26-year-old, who plays first base and catcher, had been playing with Alazanes de Granma as well as Sabuesos de Holguin in Cuba’s National Series League. He was with Holguin for five seasons before moving to Granma for the 2020-21 campaign.
Prieto also found himself playing for Agricultores in the Cuban Elite League in 2022.
The Cuban national team returned to Havana following a 14-2 rout by Team USA, and they were greeted with “an official reception by the authorities,” according to the Miami Herald.
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