Cuba is known for producing remarkable talent on the diamond. Its players are followed by every single MLB organization, and many agents dream about getting their hands on the next Cuban-born prospect. Recently, the baseball world has been caught up with what team Cuba’s most recent defector, Aroldis Chapman, will sign with. Chapman is just the newest Cuban player to clog the headlines, but in the past, many others have been in the spotlight, and unfortunately, so have their agents.
Representing Cuban defectors is risky business. Gustavo “Gus” Dominguez, co-founder of California-based Total Sports International Inc., was handed a five-year prison term in April 2008 for smuggling prospects out of Cuba. Juan Ignacio Hernández Nodar, was a Miami-based sports agent who received a fifteen-year sentence for the same thing: helping Cuban players defect from the island. Nodar was recently released one-and-a half -years earlier than the full length of the sentence. You can thank Nodar for being able to watch Orlando “El Duque” Hernández over the years.
The U.S. and Cuban governments tried to make examples out of Gus and Nodar, and for a long time, we have heard little about Cuban baseball defections. It makes me wonder how closely government officials have been monitoring Aroldis Chapman’s defection. I assume that his agents were especially careful in the way they managed his affairs. One would hope so based on the penalties handed down to guys like Dominguez and Nodar.