There was a time when you could get in real trouble for helping Cuban ball players defect from the Communist island.
Ask Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar, the Cuban agent profiled by the New Times last year. He spent 13 years in a Cuban prison for trying to help El Duque and a couple of other prospects escape Castro's grip in 1996.
Now, Red Sox president Larry Luchinno is on the island eying potential talent. The club says he's on a "charity mission." He met with the head of the Cuban league and caught a game, according to a report in the Toronto Star.
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The only charity we see would be in the form of a multi-million dollar contract for some lucky players sick of having Castro lecture them on how beisbol was played in the good old days when El Caballo took the mound and ... Slim chance they'll throw Mr. Luchinno in the can like Nodar, a Miami native just trying to make a decent buck using a little enterprising spirit.
Luchinno's visit comes on the heals of the high-profile $30 million signing of Aroldis Chapman by the Reds.
Now, there's a new prospect about to be signed: Leslie Anderson, a 27-year-old who hit .381 in his last Cuban League season. Anderson, who left for Mexico by ship in September, drew scouts from half the major league teams to a game Friday in Cancun after the U.S. Government "unblocked him." (ie. made sure he won't send his dollars back home to the Castro bros.)
Observers predict Luchinno's visit -- combined with an Anderson signing -- could trigger a mass exodus of Cuban players that would make the '90s defections pioneered by Nodar peanuts (and cracker jacks.)