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2 Cuban Minor Leaguers Say Dodgers Broke Rules

From Staff and Wire Reports

Two Cuban minor leaguers say the Dodgers held secret tryouts for them in their homeland, arranged their escapes and then ordered them to lie about it, according to the Boston Globe.

First baseman Juan Carlos Diaz, 23, and outfielder Josue Perez, 21, have asked the commissioner’s office to declare them free agents on grounds they were signed illegally.

If true, the Dodgers’ actions would violate baseball rules prohibiting scouting in Cuba. They also may violate the U.S. trade embargo against the communist nation.

“I understand that nobody should go to Cuba,” Ralph Avila, Dodger senior vice president, told the Globe. “Look, I don’t work for the immigration. I don’t work for the State Department. I don’t work for the police department. If someone went to Cuba, it’s not my business.”

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Said Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone: “There’s been no official notification, so we’re waiting to hear something before we make any comment. Major league baseball hasn’t said anything to us, so we don’t know exactly what’s out there. Right now, all we’ve heard is rumor and innuendo.”

Pablo Peguero, the scout accused of arranging the defections, said he hasn’t been to Cuba in more than 10 years.

Diaz said Peguero approached him in 1995 after a game in Havana and offered a tryout for the next morning. Afterward, Diaz said, Peguero told him the Dodgers wanted to bring him to the Dominican Republic. Two months later, Peguero returned with a woman he said was his cousin.

Diaz received a visa after the woman told authorities his family helped her find a Cuban doctor for surgery she needed. She said she had invited Diaz to the Dominican Republic to show her gratitude and paid all his expenses, Diaz said.

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Diaz went to the Dodgers’ training academy at Campo Las Palmas outside Santo Domingo, where Avila signed him to a contract with a $65,000 bonus. Last year, Diaz hit a combined 30 homers at Class A and double-A. He is currently still with the double-A San Antonio club.

“I don’t know if they paid off people or what, but I immediately got my provisional residency papers, which enabled me to sign,” Diaz said, adding that Peguero and Avila told him to lie if asked how he escaped to the Dominican Republic.

Perez, who plays for the Dodgers’ Class-A team at Vero Beach, Fla., told a similar story in a separate interview. He said after a 1996 tryout with Peguero he was escorted to the Dominican Republic by a young woman he never saw again. Perez was signed to a contract with a $40,000 bonus and also was told to lie about his escape, he said.

The players said they came forward after realizing their signing bonuses were low.

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The commissioner’s office has said teams breaking rules against scouting in Cuba face fines, suspensions or loss of amateur draft choices.

If the Dodgers did recruit players from Cuba, they could be in violation of the 36-year trade embargo prohibiting U.S. companies from conducting business on the island. Individuals can be fined up to $55,000 for violations, and corporations up to $250,000.


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