June 9, 2008 / 5:32 PM / 10 years ago

Top Cuban baseball player defects to United States

Cuban baseball player Dayan Viciedo stands before a press conference in Miami, June 9, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

MIAMI (Reuters) - A top Cuban baseball player has defected to the United States in the latest move by a promising young athlete to abandon the communist-ruled island.

Dayan Viciedo, a hard-hitting, 19-year-old third baseman from Cuba’s central Villa Clara province, left his homeland late last month and has settled in south Florida, local media said on Sunday.

El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald, was the first to report the defection of Viciedo, who started playing baseball in the Cuban majors when he was just 15.

A report on the newspaper’s Web site said Viciedo was considered one of the most well-rounded players ever to emerge from Cuba’s national teams.

Viciedo left Cuba on a boat bound for Mexico on May 20 accompanied by his family. Several days later he crossed the border from Mexico and traveled to Miami to reunite with friends and relatives, El Nuevo Herald said.

“Most Cuban ballplayers dream of playing in the major leagues,” Viciedo told the newspaper.

“This is an aspiration that comes with risks but I was willing to take them in order to try out. Inside, you have the desire to know if you have a place among the best in the world, if you belong to the elite.”

Viciedo has already reached a deal to be represented by agent Jaime Torres of Puerto Rico, who could not be reached for comment.

Viciedo’s defection was preceded, most recently, by that of seven young Cuban soccer players who bolted from their national team in March during an Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa, Florida.

Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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