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Cuba's Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story (Hardcover)
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The stellar play and fascinating backstories of exiled Cuban sluggers and hurlers in Major League Baseball (MLB) has become one of the biggest headlines in America's national pastime. On-field exploits by colorful Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, American League rookie-of-the-year Jos Abreu, home run derby champion Yoenis C spedes, radar-gun busting Cincinnati fast-baller Aroldis Chapman, and a handful of others have been further enhanced by feel-good tales of desperate Cuban superstars risking their lives to escape Fidel Castro's communist realm and chase a celebrated American Dream of financial and athletic success. But a truly ugly underbelly to this story has also slowly emerged, one that involves human smuggling operations financed by Miami crime syndicates, operated by Mexican drug cartels, and conveniently ignored by big league ball clubs endlessly searching for fresh waves of international talent. In Cuba's Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story, Cuban baseball expert Peter C. Bjarkman reveals the complete truth behind the wave of Cuban big league talent coming to MLB. Given rare access to Cuba and its ballplayers, Bjarkman has spent over twenty years traveling to all corners of the island getting to know the top Cuban stars and witnessing their baseball struggles and triumphs. In this book, Bjarkman places recent events--including the apparent thaw in US-Cuba relations--in the context of Cuban baseball history and tradition before delving into the stories of the major Cuban stars who have left the island. He reveals the personal histories of these players, explains the events that led them to eventually choose defection from their homeland, and details their harrowing journeys to reach US shores and achieve baseball stardom. Players whose big league dreams failed are also discussed, as are Cuba's recent efforts to stem the defection tide through working agreements with the Japanese and Mexican leagues. Unique in its balanced perspective of Cuban baseball and its star players, Cuba's Baseball Defectors not only shares the author's first-hand account of many previously misreported events, it also provides a view of the illegal smuggling of ballplayers from the perspective of Cuban baseball officials whose voices have often not been heard. With a conclusion outlining a likely scenario for future relations between Major League Baseball and the Cuban League, this book will fascinate baseball fans, those interested in the history of US-Cuba relations, and those wanting to learn more about the unsavory story of human trafficking in the name of baseball glory.
About the Author
Peter C. Bjarkman is the senior writer for www.BaseballdeCuba.com, the leading source in Spanish and English for current Cuban League and Cuban national team coverage. He is the author of A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864-2006 (2007) and coauthor of Smoke, the Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball (1999, with Mark Rucker). Bjarkman has made numerous media appearances as an expert on Cuban baseball, including a featured role as Anthony Bourdain's guide to island baseball on the 2011 Travel Channel episode "No Reservations Cuba." He appears as a featured head on ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary, "Brothers in Exile" and has appeared several times on the popular ESPN feature "Outside the Lines." Bjarkman was a recipient of the Society for American Baseball Research's 2017 Henry Chadwick Award, established to honor the game's great researchers.