Years Of Baseball "Cuban" Players Black Market, Agent Bart Hernandez Involvement Allegded

By Beth Chapman
Nov. 23, 2016

I can not even begin to imagine the trials and tribulations Cuban baseball players have been subjected to in their decision to defect from their native country, via the "Mexico" route. To be so determined to escape, no matter the cost, no matter the unknown circumstances they may face. Smugglers of Players, to extract high dollars from the player to see them safely (?) delivered to American entities to further their careers in a "free country". Quantity versus demand created a world of Black Marketing - Human Trafficking; and, horrendous treatment* to prevent these players from escaping their 'capturer' once in Mexico. 

"Prosecutors on Tuesday accused baseball agent Bart Hernandez of masterminding the human-trafficking scheme that brought Jose Abreu and other top Cuban talent to the United States, saying Hernandez had signed a working agreement with a since-murdered smuggler to transport high-value baseball players." (Jeff Passan, MLB columnist for Yahoo Sports

Former Mets "Yoenis Cespedes is listed as a witness in the January trial of alleged smuggler Bartolo Hernandez.", per CNN (Photo: Drew Hallowell).

Other players who have gone through such conditions are Seattle Mariner Leonys Martin Tapanes and Los Angeles Dodgers Yasiel Puig, along with former New York Mets Yoenis Cespedes, Chicago White Sox Jose Abreu, Chicago Cubs Aroldis Chapman, deceased Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez and St. Louis Cardinals Aledmys Diaz. "The cost of Cuban players boomed over the past half-decade, with teams spending more than three-quarters of a billion dollars on established major league talents like Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox." 

"In previous court filings, prosecutors allege Abreu paid more than $6.4 million to Hernandez and Estrada, part of the $8.9 million in money investigators have accounted for among 17 players. They believe Hernandez and Estrada helped smuggle close to 35 players and were enriched to the tune of $15 million." 

However, the players did receive a bit better treatment compared to Cuban refugees who used the service of Hernandez and the smugglers. 

From an article by Jose Pagliery, CNN:  "Stowaways -- Cuban refugees who hadn't paid the $10,000 smuggling fee -- were tortured to force their families to pay. The guards would place a phone call to family members in Canada or the United States, who would listen to their loved one's painful cries on the other line. The migrants were kept in "prison-like conditions," according to the latest filing."

"The baseball players received better treatment due to their monetary value to the smugglers, according to several Miami defense attorneys who have represented smugglers in related cases. Players were flown to a rural ranch where they could practice baseball." However, "To ensure the players would never leave on their own, they were surrounded by guards carrying pistols and forced to turn over their passports, according to investigators. A player "was told not to flee or he would be shot," prosecutors said in the latest court filing."

The trail of Bert Hernandez will commence this coming January. As much as a rape case, "the woman asked for it" pathetic mindset ~ "Hernandez is expected to present evidence that baseball players were treated well -- showered with parties, women and other comforts." [CNN] Also, there will be several players to testify otherwise, for the prosecution

Per Passan article: "Hernandez worked with the Praver Shapiro agency, whose two principals, Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro, have since partnered with Magnus Sports, the agency owned by pop star Marc Anthony. Neither Praver nor Shapiro has faced allegations of involvement in the scheme. Hernandez faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted on conspiracy and alien-smuggling charges."

*From Jeff Passan, you may also readThe ugly, awful, violent, big-dollar world of illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players

My hope in the future. Now that the United States and Cuban relations have opened up, not only for natives of Cuba; but, also players wanting to play in the U.S., that "human trafficking" comes to an end. That no human being is extorted or abused ever again coming to and from Cuba. My hope is that this newly restored "Diplomatic Relations" (July 20, 2015) is not slammed shut due to a future circumstances. This was a huge agreement that was realized. My hope is that it remains so. 

More of this would be great ~ Three Cuban baseball stars make tearful return to Havana years after defecting to the U.S. .....  (December 2015)