HOTFOOTING IT OUT OF HAVANA
21 year old Aroldis Chapman is considered by many to be the top rated left handed pitching prospect in the world. Earlier this week, Chapman quietly walked out of his hotel in the Netherlands, into a waiting car. Presumably, the destination is the Major Leagues. Chapman is defecting from Cuba, in essence, thumbing his nose at Fidel Castro and all he stands for. The Cuban National team was in Rotterdam for the start of an international tournament. Chapman, left without luggage, telling no one about his plans. He becomes the most prominent Cuban baseball player to defect since Jose Contreras in 2002. Chapman, who boasts a 100 mile per hour fast ball could really cash in. He is free to negotiate with every organization, although there are probably only a few who will be able to afford to bid for his services. The usual suspects, The Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and perhaps a couple of others will promise to shower Chapman with riches that at this point, he can probably only imagine. Boston and the Yankees are usually the front runners in situations like this, so we’ll probably either really love the kid or we’ll want to send him back to Havana. It brought to mind the story of former PawSox lefty Michael Tejera. Tejera, defected from Cuba at the age of 17, back in 1994. As a member of the junior national team, there was a stopover in Miami on the way to a tourney in Connecticut. Tejera, who had relatives in South Florida, called his uncle, who encouraged him to defect. “They told me about the opportunities, how things were in America, the freedom.” Upon arrival at the airport, his uncle brought Tejera and a teammate, Hansel Izquierdo to a police officer and told him the pair sought asylum in the United States. Tejera said it was a scary moment, leaving everything he knew behind, including his family. Things worked out well for Michael. Eventually his entire family escaped oppression, sneaking over on a crowded boat. Professionally, Tejera won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins in 2003. “I wanted to be a free person.” Tejera said.
Looking forward to our first trip of the season to Scranton, although I was told there was a decent chance that Saturdays’ game was not going to be played because of poor field conditions at PNC Field. The rain that has pounded the northeast has left its’ mark in Moosic. An insider with knowledge of the situation told me that when the Yankees put a new grass field in the ballpark, they didn’t bother updating the drainage system because they are hoping to build a new stadium in the next couple of years. We’ll see. The hotel where we stay is legendary in baseball circles. The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, a former train depot, is purported to be haunted. It is almost comical to hear veterans “warn” newcomers about the old hotel. I don’t buy into the baloney for a split second. A couple of years ago, Dustin Pedroia animatedly told me about his experience of the night before. “Hyder, I swear. I saw the ghost of a little boy in my room.” The future A.L. MVP continued “He was wearing a Giants jersey and a top hat.” Later that day when manager Ron Johnson heard Pedey’s story, he had a quick response. “Heck, that was no ghost, Pedroia was just looking in the mirror.”