Too often, we as baseball fans get entirely caught up in the game. We forget our favorite players have lives, families, homes and a million other things on their minds. While plenty of players are capable of separating their home lives from their work lives, others aren’t. But that isn’t even the problem. The problem is that some guys don’t even get the choice.
I am as guilty of it as anyone, but the sometimes-too-cavalier attitude with which we treat the Cuban/American defection process is misplaced.
“Why hasn’t this guy left Cuba already?”
“Doesn’t he know he’ll get a bigger payday if he leaves this year?”
“Maybe the Dodgers should sign him, because I don’t think he’s good enough.”
None of what we say here, on message boards or in friendly conversations is malicious, but we treat this process of kids leaving their families and homes (sometimes forever) like kids leaving for college. In actuality, the process of leaving Cuba has frequently been dangerous, scary, intimidating, risky, and, for nearly all players, saddening.
That said, it doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting. For a lot of these athletes, making it to Major League Baseball was the ultimate dream. For others, playing with actual baseball cleats at the big national stadium is all they ever wanted. For obvious reasons, we don’t often get a peek behind the curtain of players defecting from Cuba to come to America, but today you’re in luck.
I don’t want to spoil any of the content*, because it is very well-written. Suffice it to say, the story is good, and it’s somehow pleasant to read Pena reliving some of the sadder moments of his past, with a new-found sense of appreciation and experience. The courage he had as a 16-year-old boy is not something I can claim even now.
So, take some time out of your day today and read something great. Use this story as an education, and keep it in the back of your mind. Things are loosening up between Cuba and America, and from at least one perspective, that’s nothing short of a miracle.
*(One thing I couldn’t help but share is that Pena used two left baseball cleats for a short time, as a catcher in Cuba. To make it work, he wore them everywhere, and, because he was a catcher, he didn’t care if he was fast. That’s gold.)
[Brett: Pena having to make the decision he made, at 16, with almost no notice and no ability to clue in his support system on what he was about to do? I truly can’t even fathom it.]