One of Cuba’s top pitchers escapes the island to seek an MLB career

The Castro dictatorship has lost yet another top athlete, who chose freedom instead of slavery to the communist regime. Reports coming from the island say 24-year-olk Naykel Cruz has escaped Cuba to pursue a career in Major League Baseball, where he can enjoy the fruits of his labor instead of having it stolen from him by a totalitarian regime.

Via CubaNet (my translation):

Pitcher Naykel Cruz escapes Cuba and will pursue a career in the Major Leagues

In the last few hours, Cuban pitcher Naykel Cruz, 24, has left Cuba, according to sources close to baseball journalist Francys Romero. Cruz’s goal is to sign with a Major League organization.

In sharing the news, Romero highlighted Naykel’s potential in the professional realm. At 24, he has a stable fastball ranging between 91-93 mph, with the possibility of its speed increasing. During the V World Baseball Classic with the Cuban team, he reached 93 miles and clocked up to 94 mph in preparation sessions weeks prior in Taiwan.

The Matanzas native, who has participated in two Under-23 World Championships (2021 and 2022) and the V World Baseball Classic, was in the Dominican Republic before returning to Cuba in 2019. In his country, he was a key player in the national title conquest by the Matanzas Crocodiles.

During the 2022 World Championship, he maintained an earned run average of 1.00 in 7 innings, achieving 8 strikeouts. A year earlier, in Mexico, he showcased his dominance against numerous signed players in the Under-23 World Championship. In Obregón and Hermosillo, he accumulated 15 strikeouts in 10.2 innings, and his batting average in both World Championships was .212.

Naykel Cruz, the fourth player from the Cuban team at the V World Baseball Classic to escape

The first to do so was Iván Prieto González, bullpen catcher for Team Asere in the tournament. A native of Holguín province, Iván Prieto was chosen as bullpen catcher by the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) after the roster representing the island was announced. Prieto left the team after the defeat against the United States with a score of 14 runs to two.

While in March 2023, pitcher Yariel Rodríguez broke his agreement in Japanese professional baseball with the Chunichi Dragons and decided not to return to Cuba. At the beginning of the current year, it was reported that Rodríguez had finalized a multi-year agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last October, pitcher Yeudis Reyes left the team that participated in the Caribbean Cup in Puerto Rico at the airport, before returning to Cuba.

Cuban baseball in flight

During 2023, more than a hundred athletes left Cuba, an exodus led by baseball with 41 players.

The diaspora of players left a void especially among those aged 20 or younger. This was the case for Cristian de Jesús Zamora, Ronald Elías Terrero, Yariel Rodríguez, Geisel Téllez, Edelvis Pérez, Ernesto Santi, Roger Bolaños, Yunior David Villavicencio, Yulián Quintana, and Yasiel González, among others, who immigrated to the Dominican Republic.

Others opted for paths such as international events, family reunification, or not returning after fulfilling contracts abroad.

In the first two months of 2024, several players have already joined this list: Leandro Guerra, who led in home runs in the last National Youth Baseball Championship; Yandro Hernández, batting leader in the 2023 National Under-18 Championship, Jorge Luis Manzolo, pitching prospect, Luis Enrique Gurriel Jr., only 12 years old, and Yordan Rodríguez Peña.

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