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Cuban Pitcher Defects to U.S.

July 10, 1996|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Rolando Arrojo, considered the top pitcher for the Cuban Olympic baseball team, defected to the United States, jumping the fence at his team's practice field in Albany, Ga., and heading to Miami with an sports agent with ample experience in such matters.

Arrojo, who pitched the Cubans to a victory over the U.S. Olympic team in an exhibition game in June, was in Miami on Tuesday night with agent Joe Cubas after escaping from the team Sunday night, WLTV reported in Miami.

This is the third recent desertion by a Cuban Olympic athlete. Two boxers are seeking political asylum in Southern California after defecting last week. Ramon Garbey and Joel Casamyor were released into the care of their lawyers in San Diego.

Cubas is representing Arrojo, according to WLTV. Cubas, who brought the player to Miami, also represents the two Cuban boxers.

The boxers defected during a training camp in Guadalajara, Mexico. Both said they feared persecution because they refused to support Cuba's Communist government.

It was not clear how the loss of Arrojo would affect the prospects for the defending gold medalists at the Atlanta Games.

The Cubans have until July 19 to make roster changes. The team had submitted its roster to the Atlanta organizers on Sunday.

The Spanish-language TV station's sports editor, Arturo Polo, called Arrojo Cuba's "No. 1 pitcher."

Arrojo, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, dominated the U.S. Olympic team in the June 29 game in Zebulon, N.C. He gave up five hits, didn't allow a runner to reach third base and struck out seven.

"We've never faced a guy who throws 91 to 93 [mph], with an 82 slider and 76 change and three arm slots and good control--and it showed," U.S. Coach Skip Bertman said of Arrojo. "The first two times around the order guys couldn't catch up to the ball."

In 1993, more than 40 athletes and officials from Cuba's delegation to the 1993 Central American and Caribbean Games defected in Puerto Rico.

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