9 Cuban baseball players defect during tournament

9 Cuban baseball players defect during tournament
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Cuban officials said nine of 24 baseball players on the national team defected during the U-23 World Cup in Mexico, NPR reported.

In a note published on Cuba’s National Sports Institute (NIS) web portal JIT on Sunday, officials called the players’ action "vile abandonments.” 

NIS did not identify the players who stayed in Mexico, according to NPR. 

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The nine players’ defection is one of the biggest defections of players from a Cuban team playing abroad.

Cuban baseball players are often scouted heavily by major league clubs looking to sign them but face obstacles going through the regular hiring process due to strained relations between the nations. 

The Caribbean nation signed an agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2018 in an effort to normalize sports relations between the two entities but it was later annulled by the Trump administration, NPR reported.   

The Trump administration took a hard line against Cuba seeking to pressure its Communist government to make political changes. 

Cuba’s U-23 team lost to Colombia in the bronze medal game on Saturday, NPR noted.