Ivan Prieto (left) Jun 2, 2021; Palm Beach, Florida, USA; Cuba catcher Ivan Prieto (66) celebrates with third baseman Yadir Mujica (5) after defeating Colombia in the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier series at The Ballpark fo the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Cuban World Baseball Classic team returned home one man short Monday.

Cuba ended its WBC competition Sunday with a 14-2 loss to Team USA in the semifinals. The team flew from Miami to Havana Monday morning, although one team member was a no-show at Miami International Airport.

Iván Prieto González, a longtime player in Cuba who served as the bullpen catcher for the team in this WBC, did not show up for his flight and is presumed to have defected to the U.S.

According to various sources, Prieto is the first Cuban player to defect during a WBC competition, although Cuba has seen plenty of its top stars defect through the years at other times. Notable Cuban defectors who went on to star in MLB include José Abreu, Yordan Álvarez, Yoenis Céspedes, Aroldis Chapman and Liván Hernández.

The WBC competition Sunday at the Miami Marlins’ loanDepot Park marked the Cuban team’s first-ever competition in Miami, which has a large population of exiles from the island nation. During Sunday’s game, a protester rushed the field holding a “Libertad” sign, referencing Cubans who were arrested during 2021 demonstrations in the country. Other fans could be seen sitting behind home plate holding a sign that read “Abajato Dictadura,” protesting Cuba’s dictatorship.

Prieto played eight seasons in Cuba with teams from Holguín and Granma.

[Francys Romero]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.