The Miami Herald
October 26, 1998
Five players work out, wait for a chance in major leagues

             Herald Staff Writer

             SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Five baseball players who fled Cuba in August work
             out at small parks near San Jose, keeping their skills honed for the day the scouts

             Four of the athletes were standouts with the Villa Clara team, which won Cuba's
             version of the World Series from 1993 to 1995. The fifth, 17-year-old shortstop
             Michael Jova, was such a star on Cuba's Junior Olympic team that he may be the
             hottest prospect.

             Despite being paid only 238 pesos a month, less than $10, they enjoyed a
             privileged status on the island. But when two of them -- catcher Angel Lopez
             Berrido and utility man Osmani Garcia Santana -- spoke with pitcher Rolando
             Arrojo in 1997 after Arrojo defected to the United States, they received indefinite

             The punishment prompted an escape to the Bahamas by three of the players and
             the humiliation of being returned to Cuba. The other two tried to flee separately but
             failed to get off the island.

             ``I felt my life was over,'' explained Garcia, 24, who said he was called into
             Havana's Estadio Latinamericano on July 17, 1997, for a dressing-down by
             Cuban baseball commissioner Carlos Gonzalez. ``I didn't have any dreams left to

             Six days later, the 25-year-old Lopez was disciplined. The two started discussing
             their situation.

             ``Do you want to go?'' Garcia said.

             ``Yes,'' was the one-word reply.

             Michael Jova, who lived nearby, dropped in on Lopez. He, too, was unhappy. His
             dad, Pedro Jova, manager of the national team, had been fired because of the
             Arrojo incident, he said. He, too, was ready. The three, accompanied by another
             ballplayer now in Arizona, made it to the Bahamas, but two months later were sent

             Back in Santa Clara, they discovered that two of their Villa Clara teammates --
             pitcher Alain Hernandez Cardenas, 21, and second baseman Jorge Diaz Olando,
             23, -- had also tried to escape but had been arrested on the beach.

             President Fidel Castro gave the order to suspend them, they say.

             ``It must be him,'' Garcia said. ``He never forgave Arrojo, whom they now call a

             ``When the national team gathered [in Havana to leave for the 1996 Olympics],
             Fidel handed Arrojo our national flag. He told Rolando to be the flag bearer in
             Atlanta. And then Rolando did what he had to do, and Fidel has never forgotten


                               Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald