Weissenstein: Cuban baseball defectors Puig, Abreu make triumphant return

From Michael Weissenstein at the Associated Press on December 15, 2015, with mention of SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman:

A lineup of Cuban baseball stars, including some of the most famous defectors in recent memory, made a triumphant return Tuesday as part of the first Major League Baseball trip to the island since 1999.

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and shortstop Alexei Ramirez and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena walked with a group of Major League Baseball officials and other players into the lobby of Havana’s soaring Hotel Nacional at the start of a three-day mission meant to warm relations between MLB and the Cuban system that has been drained by the loss of many of its best players to the U.S.

Puig, who fled to Mexico in a smuggler’s fast-boat in 2012 and then crossed the border to Texas, wrapped his childhood coach Juan Arechavaleta in a bear-hug, resting the side of his face atop the smaller man’s head.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said Puig, who had been barred from returning to Cuba until he was granted special permission for this week’s trip.

Read the full article here: http://mediacomtoday.com/news/read/category/News/hashtag/Sports/article/the_associated_press-triumphant_return_for_cuban_baseball_defectors_pui-ap

Originally published: December 15, 2015. Last Updated: December 15, 2015.