It is amazing what millions of Cubans have done to escape the tyranny, oppression, and misery of communism, many of them risking their lives in their quest for freedom. Baseball star Randy Arozarena is one of them. In an interview with GQ in Mexico, Randy recounts his daring escape on a boat across the shark-infested waters of the Caribbean.
Randy Arozarena: ‘It felt like I was risking my life for my family’
In a recent interview with the Mexican media outlet GQ Mexico, Randy Arozarena, one of the most prominent Cuban baseball players in Major League Baseball today, recalled his departure from Cuba by boat —a decision he had to make to help his family after his father’s death.
In 2013, when he was 19 years old, his father passed away, and he took on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings.
“As the eldest son, at 19 years old, I had to become a father to my siblings,” said Arozarena in the interview. He explained, “I felt that I was risking my life for my family. One can always put their own life at risk, but that was my first moment of realizing I was really risking it. And that was when I escaped from Cuba.”
Arozarena, born in Arroyos de Mantua — one of the spots to escape from Cuba heading to Mexico — explained his journey to flee the island: “We went into hiding in the mountains to evade the police and got on the boat. I left at three in the morning, and gradually, the conditions worsened. Despite that, I fell asleep for a long time. My arm was literally touching the water, and there were waves like five meters high. The front part of the boat broke, and you felt like any wave could throw you out of the boat. It was tough.”
After a nine-hour journey, Arozarena arrived at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. There, he began a new life with the hope of fulfilling his dream of playing in the Major Leagues.
Arozarena settled in Mérida, Yucatán, and started showcasing his baseball skills in front of talent scouts in the region. However, his nightlife activities posed a risk to his career.
“While playing in the Meridian League — a semi-professional tournament — I used to go to clubs and then play,” said Arozarena. “I realized that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I arrived in Mexico with a goal: to help my family.”
He moved to Tijuana, Baja California, because he was told it was a very dangerous place, which would force him not to leave the house.
The self-imposed seclusion started to work. Before heading to the Major Leagues, Randy Arozarena defended Mérida’s colors in the Winter League in 2016. Later, he joined the Toros de Tijuana in the Mexican Baseball League (LMB). Finally, in 2017, he played for the Mayos de Navojoa in the Pacific League. He spent three seasons there, leading the league in 2018 with 19 home runs and scoring 49 runs.
Mexico became the bridge to reach the St. Louis Cardinals, who invited him to their 2019 spring training. In 2020, Arozarena was called up by the Tampa Bay Rays, where he has remained since then, proving to be a crucial player for the team.