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Frederich Cepeda becomes the first non-defecting Cuban to play in a major league in decades

Apr 24, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT


Last year we noted that Cuba lifted its rule — dating back to 1961 — which prevented its baseball stars to play baseball in other countries. Now Cubans can play in foreign leagues (at least non-U.S. foreign leagues) without having to defect. In exchange, they pay 20 percent of their salary to the government. For many — especially players who may not be Major League Baseball material — this isn’t a bad deal. After all, it’s one thing to risk your life and family for the chance at tens of millions. It’s another thing altogether to do it merely to play outside of Cuba for a couple of seasons.

Frederich Cepeda, an outfielder for the Cuban National team and  and Sancti Spíritus of the Cuban National Serieshas become the first player to take advantage of this policy. Cepeda, 34, will head to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants. He’ll make $1.5 million which, while just above average for any U.S. major leaguer, is life-transforming money for someone who otherwise would have little choice but to continue to play in Cuba, where even the best players make no more than $500 a month.

  1. dluxxx - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    You gotta wonder if they’d like a top caliber player to ever do something like this. What’s stopping them from playing one season in Japan or Korea or wherever and then defecting? Heck, it’d be better than sitting in a cheap hotel in Mexico wondering if you were going to get killed.

    • spursareold - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      Yasiel what you did there…

  2. djandujar - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Viva Cuba!!!!!!!

  3. tn16 - Apr 24, 2014 at 7:18 PM

    I was in cuba at spring break and saw acouple Japanese scouts looking at this guy. This man will put up insane numbers he has a swing that is so quick and powerful.

    • aresachaela - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:13 PM

      Not to mention his fellow country man Leslie Anderson plays for the same team as well, I’m positive he’ll have a great time playing for the Yomiuri Giants.

  4. renaado - Apr 24, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    • aresachaela - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:16 PM

      Thanks for showing me about the Yakyubaka site yesterday Ren, It’s been really helpful especially for someone who wants to learn more about Baseball outside the US :-) .

      • renaado - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:32 PM

        No problem, just glad you liked it.

  5. mikhelb - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:47 AM

    One of the more impressive homerun hitters of Cuba, Despaigne, played last year in México, technically he was the first to take advantage of that rule, but yeah, Mexican Baseball League is not a major league like the leagues in Japan.

    Despaigne had a hard time hitting fastballs and breaking curves in México, and I wonder if the antidoping policy existing in México will also serve as a deterrent for players.

    Any foreign player in the Mexican baseball League to test positive in an antidoping test, gets a lifetime ban. Today (11:48pm here) one of the most iconic homerun hitters to play in Japan was banned for life in México.

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