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Two Cuban ballplayers hope to stay in Canada

Two Cuban ballplayers hope to stay in Canada

By Marty Klinkenberg, Edmonton Journal August 24, 2012

Team Cuba's pitcher Mabel Cuello gets a hug after being relieved from

the game during IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup game action against Team

USA at John Fry Park in Edmonton on Wednesday August 15, 2012.

Team Cuba's pitcher Mabel Cuello gets a hug after being relieved from

the game during IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup game action against Team

USA at John Fry Park in Edmonton on Wednesday August 15, 2012.

Photograph by: Larry Wong , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – Two of the three Cuban players who failed to show up for

Sunday's closing ceremonies at the Women's Baseball World Cup in

Edmonton are hoping to adopt Canada as their new home.

Pitchers Lianni Nieves Rodriguez and Olga Lidia Hernandez Guevara have

been in hiding since they went missing and have begun the process of

attempting to apply for immigration.

In all, four players bolted from the Cuban women's national team during

the 10-day tournament, including 21-year-old outfielder Odrisleisis

Pequero Del Sol, who defected to the United States. There is no

information regarding the identity or status of the other player.

Rodriguez and Guevara both come from Ciego de Avila, a hotbed for

beisbol in the central part of Cuba, 460 kilometres east of Havana.

A 21-year-old right-hander, Guevara appeared in three games at the

Women's World Cup and was the losing pitcher in an 11-5 defeat by

Venezuela. A left-hander, Rodriguez was the winner in Cuba's only

victory of the tournament, 13-5 over the Netherlands on Aug. 17. She

celebrated her 22nd birthday in Edmonton on Tuesday, two days after

failing to show up at the closing ceremonies.

Cuba finished last among eight teams at the event, which was won by

Japan. Team USA won a silver medal, with Canada winning a bronze.

Danielle Vlemmiks, a communications adviser and regional media

spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said privacy

regulations prohibit the agency from offering comment. In 2011, 219

Cubans filed refugee claims in Canada, with 58 per cent granted status.

Although it has not been unusual for members of the Cuban men's national

team to defect at international tournaments, this is the first time

members of its women's squad have gone missing while playing abroad.

Three players from the junior men's team defected in Edmonton in 2008,

prompting an angry call from Cuban leader Fidel Castro to Ron Hayter,

executive director of the Edmonton Baseball Federation. Two of those

players — Noel Argüelles and José Iglesias — later signed multimillion

dollar contracts with major league teams.

Jen Martinez, an instructor at the Fiesta Cubana Dance School in

Edmonton, said it is a difficult for Cubans to make the transition to

living in Canada.

"It's a culture shock," said Martinez, whose husband, Orlando founded

the dance school and is a Cuban immigrant. "There is a language barrier,

it is cold, suddenly people have the freedom of choice. It is definitely

quite hard if you aren't prepared for it and don't have a support system

in place."

mklinkenberg@edmontonjournal.com

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/Cuban+ballplayers+hope+stay+Canada/7142657/story.html

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