Reports: Cuban baseball player defects after World Baseball Classic

MIAMI – The Center for a Free Cuba in Washington has confirmed Ivan Prieto, a bullpen catcher for Cuba’s national baseball team, defected following the World Baseball Classic in Miami on Sunday.

Video from La Familia Cubana shows Cuba’s national team at Miami International Airport as they prepared to return to Cuba and Prieto was not there.

Outspoken activist and critic of the Cuban government, Ramon Sanchez, spoke out about how it was likely no easy task for Prieto to separate himself from the team, management and staff who many believe have been closely watching each player for fear they may defect.

“Just before boarding the plane, he just vanished so we suspect he has defected. They tried. We learned that they had kept them in a bus for a couple of hours just before the game trying to contain them,” said Sanchez.

Late Monday, a woman who said she is the first cousin of Prieto told Local 10 News he is with his brother and for now, they are staying with friends outside of South Florida.

She said it’s not been easy for the family he left behind in Cuba, including an infant daughter.

This year’s season was the first time since 2006 the Cuban national team advanced to the semi-finals.

The incident comes after a game that drew much controversy with protestors like Carlos Alvarez, Antonio Fernandez and Danilo Maldonado-Machado, seizing the moment at Loan Depot Park on Sunday. The trio ran onto the field with a sign that read: “Freedom for the Cuban prisoners arrested July 11th.”

Hundreds of people were arrested in Cuba after protestors took to the streets on the communist island in July 2021.

Antonio Fernandez, Danilo Maldonado-Machado and Carlos Alvarez face trespassing charges for protesting during the World Baseball Classic at Loan Depot Park in Miami. (Copyright 2023 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

“They are not alone, and we are going to do whatever it is that is possible until they are free,” said Maldonado-Machado.

The three protestors were arrested on Sunday but have since been released from jail. They are facing misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

Prieto is the only player believed to have defected.

“Everybody wants to live in a free county. Even as baseball players in Cuba they are a little bit better off. Come on, them make $30 a month,” said Sanchez.

The Cuban government has yet to respond to reports of Prieto’s defection.

There’s no word on whether Prieto will be granted asylum in the U.S.

About the Authors:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.

Veronica Crespo writes for and also oversees the Español section of the website. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism and Spanish.