By Migue Guerra
In a recent presentation in the Show de Swing Completo, Holguin-born New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman revealed details about how he escaped from a Cuban National Team in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We reproduce some of the things the lefty flamethrower went through to defect and find his MLB path.
How did you leave Cuba?
“One day I called a friend who lived in the United States and told him that I couldn’t take it anymore and that I was leaving. There were two Cuban National Teams in the making, one for the IBAF World Cup in Spain and the other for Rotterdam, I was sure that I had to leave for one of those two teams and I told him that I was going to stay with whichever one I got to.”
“It was a very difficult step, my daughter was one day old, I didn’t see her, I couldn’t meet her because I was going on the trip.”
“When they called me to go to Holland, my friend already knew about it, I arrived in Holland and I think I left after an hour. I remember when we went to the restaurant to eat I saw the father of my friend who was practically at the hotel, when I saw him I froze a little, he put a note on a table, I took it and went up to the room.”
“I read the paper, there he was telling me that at the entrance of the hotel there was a gray Volvo with white seats, to wait for me when I left and that if I had the passport I should take it.”
“So it went like this: I took my passport, got out and got in the car; unbelievably, they always took our passports from us, yet they hadn’t taken it this time.”
How was the route from Holland to where you were going to start the journey to get to the big leagues?
“From Rotterdam I arrived in Amsterdam, I was there for two days, there was the TV mess referring to me as the defector and so on. I was a little scared because I thought they could catch me and send me to Cuba, I didn’t want to go back or anything like that.”
“I told the people who were with me that I wanted to leave, that I was not calm. From there we rented a car and went to Spain, there I stayed for a while trying to find a residence to seek free agency”.
“I couldn’t get it in Spain, but it became easier to get it in Andorra because of the requirements they asked for. I was not in Andorra for long, because once I obtained the residency I was given free agency soon after. Then I traveled to Madrid, I was there for almost a week, I went to the embassy to get a visa and as soon as they gave me the visa I think I flew to New York after two days”.
How did you start showcasing for scouts?
“I was signed with a company that the agent and the owner one was a Boston fan and the other a Yankees fan, they were in that dilemma for me to sign with one of those teams. At that time they were talking to some teams, they took me to Boston, there I had a bullpen, then I went back to New York I spent like 15 or 20 days there.”
“Then I had a conversation with Kendrys Morales regarding my contract and the percentages with the company and my lawyer. Kendrys explained a few things to me and I saw many errors in the contract, from there I spoke with his lawyer and decided to change agency, there I stayed all that time until I signed with Cincinnati”.
Was that the best decision of your life?
“Yes, the best decision I have made in my life was that. At that time the athletes when they left Cuba already had in their minds that they could not return, so I thought about it a lot, but I also thought that someday I could take my family out of Cuba. Thank God everything went well and after a few years I was able to bring my family here.”