By José Alejandro Rodríguez Zas
There is no doubt that Santiago de Cuba’s Héctor Olivera was one of the most popular players of his era in the Cuban Baseball National Series. He had excellent offensive and defensive tools: contact, power, speed, glove and arm. All of that led him to be a member of the Cuban National Team to important as a second baseman, and he became a starter during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Olivera escaped from Cuba in September 2014, at age 29, following his dream to play in the Majors and the steps of many players from his generation, all of whom are stars in the Show today. After playing 10 seasons with the Avispas de Santiago, and leaving excellent numbers with .323 batting average, 105 homers and 494 runs batted in, the stellar infielder took the risky path of professional baseball.
Just a few months after leaving Cuba, in May 2015, Olivera reached his goal, when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers a six-year $62.5-million contract. However, that very July, without having made his MLB debut, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves.
He managed to play his first Major League game on September 1, 2015 as sixth in the lineup and third baseman in a game his team lost 1-7 to the Miami Marlins in Turner Field. He was 0 for 4.
Olivera received some game time during the 2015 and 2016 campaign, with 98 at bats in the majors, 24 hits, five doubles, a triple and two homeruns, along with 13 runs batted in, and a slash line of .245/.296/.378/.674 (AVE/OBP/SLU/OPS), in 30 games.
What happened afterwards is familiar to all of us: he was placed on administrative leave by the Braves after being arrested when his wife accused him of assaulting her in a hotel outside of Washington DC, so he landed an 82-game suspension and lost more than half his salary for the season.
Upon his return, he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Matt Kemp, and was released a few days later, in August 2012. Since then, he has not played organized baseball again.
All this situation prevented the followers of Cuban baseball to see one of the most talented players of his time in action, and his possible results in the majors were left in just predictions.
However, according to the website SpotRac.com, Olivera continued to get paid as part of the agreement he signed with the Dodgers: 2 million dollars in 2015, 4 million in 2016, 2.5 million in 2017 and 2018, 7.5 million in 2019 and 8.5 million in 2020, totalling 83 million dollars, including a 28-million signing bonus. He received 31.3 million from the Atlanta Braves, 29.3 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers and 22.4 from the San Diego Padres.
Despite the circumstances, Olivera did manage to get economic profit from his MLB agreement, which has allowed him to live comfortably. Although he is not “very active on social media,” he has been seen sharing time with other players and friends in Miami, Florida.
Recently, on the occasion of his 37th birthday, last April 5, Olivera shared a message to his followers on his profile on Facebook, in which apart from expressing his subtle opinion about his life and experience, he said that not everyone will be able to understand it. He stated he is happy with himself and congratulated himself while also posting a picture with a new white car, which was probably one of his birthday presents.
“Do not explain what you do with your life. No matter how hard you try, there will always be people who will never understand your life story or everything you have gone through, or understand the effort you made not to give up. If they speak without knowing, you smile… When your dreams come true, make another list about your dreams, because while life has an end, dreams don’t. I congratulate myself,” he wrote.