Cuban Government has confirmed nine players who represented the country at the Under-23 Baseball World Cup had defected and have not returned home from Mexico.
Cuba’s squad at the tournament in Sonora, which concluded on Saturday (October 2), was formed of 24 players.
In a statement published by the web portal JIT, the official organ of Cuba’s National Sports Institute, officials claimed the players had been guilty of “vile abandonments” of their nation.
None of the Cuban athletes who stayed in Mexico have been identified.
It is believed to be one of the biggest defections carried out by a Cuban team participating in a major sports event abroad.
Relations between Cuba and the United States have severely impacted their chances of being scouted by Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs.
The Cuban Government signed an agreement with the MLB on sports relations in 2018 but it was swiftly annulled by US President Donald Trump.
Cuba finished fourth at the event, won by Venezuela, after losing the bronze-medal match 5-3 to Colombia.
It is Colombia’s first-ever medal at an Under-23 Baseball World Cup.
Venezuela lifted the trophy thanks to a 4-0 shutout victory over Mexico.
insidethegames has contacted the World Baseball Softball Confederation for comment.