2 Cuban Baseball Players Defect to US
Pair stays in North Carolina during exhibition match
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 3, 2015 2:50 PM CDT
A Cuban player slides safely into home in this file photo.   (Ricardo Arduengo)

(Newser) – Relations between the US and Cuba are warming, but apparently not fast enough for two Cuban baseball players. The pair defected while in the United States for a series of games against US collegians. Official sports website Jit says third baseman Luis Yander La O left the team in North Carolina, where the Cuban team has been playing tuneups ahead of the Pan American Games in Toronto. An earlier report from Jit said outfielder Yadiel Hernandez also defected.

The 25-year-old La O batted .329 in the Cuban league last season for Santiago. Hernandez is a 28-year-old who averaged .355 for Matanzas in 2014-15. Defections have continued to hit Cuba's national team despite a decision in late 2013 to raise athletes' salaries and let them sign lucrative contracts to compete overseas during the offseason. This year, four Cubans have gone on contracts to Canada, and three to Japan.