Mind Over Sports

OUTFIELDER YOENIS CESPEDES DEFECTS FROM CUBA. BUT HOW WILL HE PERFORM IN AMERICA?

Posted on: December 15, 2011

Yoenis Cespedes is a 6-foot, 215 pound baseball star who led Cuba’s domestic league last season with 33 homers and 99 RBI in 354 at-bats and hit .333. He defected over the summer and is in the process of establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. Cespedes is expected to do well in America but there is one major consideration.

By way of background, a story in USA Today once pointed out that when Cuban baseball players defect from their homeland and come to America, their performance levels drop. One of the reasons (in fact, it could be THE reason) is that many of them leave their families behind and are constantly concerned about their safety.

A good example was Amaury Marti, who was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and played for one of their farm clubs, The Springfield (Missouri) Cardinals. According to the Springfield News-Leader, Marti “refused to talk about his defection from Cuba where he left his parents, brother and a son behind. The former member of the Cuban National team said he left for the chance to play baseball in the United States and, hopefully, in the majors.” Unless he has received counseling regarding his situation, and didn’t  just keep the issue bottled-up inside himself, it’s doubtful that he is performing in America at the same level he did while on the Cuban National team.

Which brings me to the situation involving Yoenis Cespedes. It’s unknown if he was able to bring his family with him, and if not (unless the Cuban government has softened its policy regarding the treatment of families of athletes who defect) then it’s quite possible that Cespedes will not perform anywhere near the level he did in Cuba. What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond.

Note: Since writing this entry, I found out that Yoenis Cespedes did, in fact, leave some of his family behind:  His two-year old son and his girlfriend, who is the mother of his son.  Whether or not he has been successful in getting them out of Cuba and joining him in Oakland is unknown, but his batting average has jumped considerably in the last month so it’s possible they are now residing in the U.S.

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