How a baseball scout survived Cuban prison

The Wall Street Journal — yes, the “financial” paper — has a very interesting article up by Christopher Rhoades detailing the emotional journey of Juan Ignacio Hernández Nodar, an American who spent 13 years in a Cuban prison for helping players like Liván Hernández escape the communist country to play Major League Baseball.

But Mr. Hernández Nodar, whose family fled Cuba when he was two, was after even bigger game: Cuba’s winningest pitcher, Liván’s older half-brother, Orlando “El Duque” Hernández.

Cuba’s world-class players are barred from the U.S. by Cuba’s supreme leader Fidel Castro, who treasures them as symbols of Communist superiority. That Aug. 12, Mr. Hernández Nodar was arrested while attending a game in central Cuba. A Havana court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, calling him a “parasite benefitting from the huge efforts of our working people.”

It’s a fascinating read, given that Hernández Nodar survived in a hostile environment where he was viewed as a traitor. We tend to forget the consequences of the Cuban defection process, and the article points out how quickly it can turn a life sour. Nevertheless, the story of Juan Ignacio Hernández Nodar has a happy ending: He has successfully opened up a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

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