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Cuba catcher Ivan Prieto defects from national team in Miami after WBC

Mary DeCicco / Major League Baseball / Getty

Cuba catcher Ivan Prieto defected from his home country on Monday in Miami following his team's elimination from the World Baseball Classic, according to Jorge Ebro of the Miami Herald.

Prieto did not show up to Miami International Airport for the Cuban team's flight to Havana on Monday, which flew home without him. He is the first Cuban player to defect from the national team during the WBC, according to journalist Francys Romero.

Prieto served as Cuba's bullpen catcher during the WBC. He was not listed on the team's official roster, and did not get into a game during the tournament.

The 26-year-old spent his last seven seasons in the Cuban National Series, the nation's top domestic league. During the 2021-22 winter season, he hit .317/.413/.426 with six home runs, 38 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases in 88 games for Alazanes de Granma. He also spent time with Cuban Elite League club Agricultores in 2022. Prieto's most recent international action for Cuba came during the under-23 World Cup in October 2021, according to Romero.

Many star Cuban baseball players have defected from the communist nation over the years in order to pursue a professional career in Major League Baseball. This year's WBC was the first time that Cuba's national team allowed former defectors who either play in the majors or the affiliated minors to represent the country in the tournament. Chicago White Sox stars Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert Jr. were the two current MLB players who joined Cuba in the tournament.

Cuba was eliminated from the WBC in a 14-2 semifinal loss to the U.S. on Sunday in Miami. Before the game, large groups protested Cuba's communist government outside loanDepot Park, which is located in the neighborhood of Little Havana. Three spectators were arrested for storming the field with signs protesting Cuba's government during the game, according to Laura Rodriguez of NBC 6 South Florida.

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