Cuban baseball players no longer have to risk their lives if they want to become stars in the U.S. major leagues.
Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation signed a historic deal Wednesday allowing Cuban players to come to the United States without having to defect or place their lives in the hands of criminal human traffickers.
“We believe this agreement accomplishes that objective and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday.
Under the deal, Cuban players who are at least 25 years old and have played in the Cuban Leagues for six seasons can negotiate with a U.S. team. Other players would need special permission.
Major League Baseball would pay a release fee to the Cuban federation for every player it signs.
Unlike in the past, Cuban players would be allowed to return home without fear of arrest or persecution and could spend their U.S. salaries any way they see fit.
The Cuban federation said Wednesday’s agreement lets players play baseball “without discrimination, in equal terms, in the MLB without being compelled to break their ties of any kind with their country.”
Cuban-born superstar Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, who defected to the U.S. in 2013, said, “Words cannot fully express my heartfelt joy and excitement. Knowing that the next generation of Cuban baseball players will not endure the unimaginable fate of past Cuban players is the realization of an impossible dream for all of us.”