- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A member of Cuba’s national team defected following its semifinal loss Sunday to the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic in Miami.

Bullpen catcher Ivan Prieto was picked up by his relatives at the Cuban team’s hotel — just hours after the team’s 14-2 loss — according to multiple journalists. 

Exile sources told Spanish media outlet EFE that calls from Prieto’s native Holguin province in Cuba confirmed that he stayed in the U.S. 

Prieto’s reported disappearance thwarted Cuba’s hasty exit from the U.S., which was organized to avoid having players defect before the end of the international baseball tournament, according to the Miami Herald.

Prieto was on the Cuban team for the Americas Olympics Qualifier in May 2021 and also in the U-23 World Cup in September-October of that year.

The 26-year-old catcher played eight seasons in Cuba’s domestic league and posted a career .291 batting average with 13 home runs.

Protests against the Cuban government took place outside loanDepot Park and chants of “freedom” and “down with communism” were heard throughout Sunday’s semifinal game, according to the Herald. 

Three protesters were arrested after they ran onto the field in a show of support for political prisoners in the communist island nation. 

• Matt Delaney can be reached at mdelaney@washingtontimes.com.

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