By Mike Dodd, USA TODAY
The former Cuban pitcher who defected after Monday's exhibition game in
Baltimore apparently just walked away from the team hotel with an
American attorney, according to a Virginia couple who said they
Rigoberto Herrera Betancourt walked into a Baltimore police station alone
at 10 a.m. Tuesday to request asylum. He apparently slipped away from
Cuban authorities about 6½ hours earlier as the delegation prepared to
board buses for Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Jerry Horton and Deanna Weaver of Fairfax Station, Va., said they
befriended Herrera Betancourt and a few other former players in the
Cuban delegation before the game at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel in
downtown Baltimore. Horton took a few pictures, including one of Herrera
Betancourt in which his name is clearly visible on an official Orioles game
After the game, the couple said they returned to the hotel and met the
Cubans again in the lounge. Seated at their table was an American man in
his mid-30s in a suit and tie, making several calls on his cell phone, they
said. He introduced himself and said he was an attorney, but the couple
doesn't remember his name.
"He was running back and forth, leaving our table, then coming back," said
Weaver, a high school guidance director.
About 3 a.m., there was a commotion as the delegation was told they were
leaving. "Everybody seemed to be taken by surprise. They looked
confused," said Horton, who owns a music store in Alexandria, Va.
After a few minutes, Weaver said she noticed one of the former players
had left an umbrella and jacket in the lounge. She said she went into the
lobby and spotted Herrera Betancourt by the front door with the attorney.
The Cuban stepped outside and she gave him the jacket to give to the
player who left it.
At that point, there was no Cuban security outside, Weaver said.
"The buses were right in front (of the entrance). They started to walk
left, down the sidewalk," she said. "We figured that's when he
Herrera Betancourt is in custody of the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service while his asylum request is being processed. The
INS doesn't confirm or deny any individual's request for asylum, nor reveal
Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said the INS told him it would have a
decision very soon. He said he expects the request for asylum to be
No one has come forward to acknowledge helping Herrera Betancourt
defect and the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami has no
details of the incident. A spokesperson for the foundation said it received
unconfirmed reports Herrera Betancourt has a relative living in south
Horton and Weaver said their Cuban friends gave them autographs and
few of the small flags they waved during the game. The future defector
signed a cap "R. Betancourt," they said.
© Copyright 1999 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.