HAVANA – Nine of the 24 players on the Cuban national team at the U-23 Baseball World Cup defected during the tournament in Mexico, the Cuban government confirmed on Sunday.
Cuban officials described the players’ actions as a “hideous task” in a statement from the web portal JIT, the official organ of the island’s National Sports Institute.
The institute has not identified the players who stayed in Mexico.
The loss of nine players is one of the biggest losses for a Cuban team playing abroad. Cuban baseball players are often recruited by Boy Scouts to sign for major league clubs, and the strained US-Cuba relationship prevents them from going through a regular recruitment process.
In 2018, the Caribbean nation signed an agreement with Major League Baseball to normalize sports relations, but it was soon canceled by the Trump administration, which took a tough line against Cuba to pressure the island’s communist government for policy change exercise.
Cuba finished their part of the U23 tournament on Saturday and lost in the bronze medal game against Colombia. The U23 World Cup was held in the Mexican state of Sonora.