One main difference between international baseball and the MLB isn’t on the field but off; the accessibility of the athletes.
The biggest names in professional sports have an aura about them; you dont expect to get to know them– they live in exclusive neighborhoods behined gated communities, and their children go to exclusive schools– they seem so far removed from the general public that the average person is unlikely to meet them and as such, I cannot recall a time when something similar happened at a stadium, like the recent Yadir Drake altercation.
To better understand how and why the Drake altercation happened in the first place, we have to look at how why Cubans come to Mexico in the hopes of signing with the MLB, and probably the most recent– and wildest– example is the story of Yasiel Puig. Puig’s situation may not be an exact parallel to Drakes. Still, it does paint a picture of how these Cuban stars open themselves up to exploitation in the hopes of providing their families with a better life than one they can receive in their native home.
The story of Yasiel Puig
Cuba is home to some of the best baseball players in the world. Still, since the Cuban revolution in 1959, Castro ended professional baseball in Cuba and forbade Cuban players from playing abroad. Every Cuban player who has played in the Majors, from Rusney Castillo, José Dariel Abreu, to Aroldis Chapman, has done so because they have defected from their home– and often through Mexico.
What makes a player want to leave their home, their family? For Yasiel Puig, who was making the equivalent $17USD a month playing in Cuba, it was an eventual $42 million contract with the Dodgers. Puig attempted to defect between 11-15 times before he was finally able to smuggle himself and his family out of Cuba with the “help” of a cartel in Mexico along with boxer Yunior Despaigne who had this to say about his experience along the same route:
“I don’t know if you could call it a kidnapping, because we had gone there voluntarily, but we also weren’t free to leave. If they didn’t receive the money, they were saying that at any moment they might give him a machetazo” — a whack with a machete — “chop off an arm, a finger, whatever, and he would never play baseball again, not for anyone.”Yunior Despaigne
The cartel was allegedly promised by Floridian Raul Pacheco, the 29-year-old president of Miami-based T&P Metal and PY Recycling, $250,000 to get Puig out of Cuba. In exchange, Pacheco would receive 20% of Puig’s future earnings after he signed an MLB contract which was already being offered to Los Angeles-based agent Gus Dominguez, starting at $175,000, and New York-based agent Joe Kehoskie, starting at $250,000. “Nobody’s going to Cuba and bringing out a guy like Yasiel Puig,” Kehoskie said, “and just handing him over to an agent out of the goodness of their heart.”
According to court records, Puig has paid $400,000 to $500,000 to Alberto Fariñas, the 49-year-old vice president of Pacheco’s T&P Metal company, and $600,000 to Marcos González, a Miami lawyer. He also paid an undisclosed amount to Gilberto Suarez, founder of a start-up company called Miami Sports Management.
Yadir Drakes Defection
Not every defection is as wild as that of Yasiel Puig; Aroldis Chapman ( Starting pitcher for the Yankees) simply walked out his hotel’s front door in the Netherlands, entering the car of an acquaintance at a tournament in 2009.
Yadir’s defection was tame in comparison to his often compared fellow Cuban Puig. “It was an easy trip … nothing dangerous or anything, I didn’t have anyone waiting in Cancun and didn’t know anybody, but I wasn’t scared. I was nervous a little, but I thought I’d be able to find my way around.” Drake said of his 2011 crossing from Cuba to Cancun
“I left Cuba for a better life, I wanted to play baseball in the United States.”Yadir Drake
Who is Juan Carlos Salazar Gonzalez?
Carlos Salazar is currently the head of the Public Works Supervision Department for the Secretaria de Educación del Estado de Yucatán and was the handler or agent for Drake when he arrived from Cuba. As saw with the Puig situation, it is expected that when a player manages to sign to a Major League team, or Mexican League team, the player, in gratitude, gives an incentive to the people who helped him get the deal.
Whatever transpired between the two led to Salazar asking Yadir for more money in 2014. And ever since then, his harassment of Yadir and his family has continued, coming to a head in a recent confrontation when a drunk Carlos Salazar proceeded to hurl racist epitaphs at the Cuban slugger ′′ black, starved to death, asshole¨ ( as is reported by spectators.)
History of Harasment
A source familiar with the situation told me that the Salazars have been following Drakes’s family around the stadium taking unsolicited photos and videos since his signing with the organization in 2019 in the hopes of extorting the LMB ALL-Star.
Drakes wife told him after batting practice that Carlos and his wife were still following them around the stadium and this is when Drake confronted them both in the parking lot and in an attempt to get to Carlos, Rubi ( the alleged victim and wife of Carlos) was shoved to the ground as the men wrestled.
When teammates of Drake were able to separate the two, Rubi called the police to report that Drake attacked Her unprovoked outside the stadium. There was no Mention by Rubi or her husband of the racist remarks, or threats hurled at the rest of the players after the altercation and before the police arrived.
Carlos and his wife Rubí both work for the Secretaria de Educación del Estado de Yucatán.