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Despaigne and the fake passport, the obscure plot of the Cuban baseball

Despaigne and the fake passport, the obscure plot of the Cuban baseball

Posted by Shanelle Weir on June 16, 2014

The plot in which the Cuban player Alfredo Despaigne and the team Pirates of Campeche, of the Mexican Baseball League (LMB in spanish) is involved, seems to have come to an end with the worst result possible for both parts: the player was suspended from the tournament, while the club might face a high economic fine and its former president was vetoed for life.

To understand this fatal outcome it is imperative to analyze the context. In 2013, the Pirates surprised everybody when they hired Michel Enríquez. This was a historical event, because for the first time in more than half a century, the Cuban Federation of Baseball (FCB for its initials in spanish) authorized a player to be active in the National Series to make part of a professional team. The relations between the Campeche and the FCB seemed to be very good at the time, they had a collaboration agreement from different coaches and they had worked with the Pirates for five years.

Enríquez wasn’t in the tournament for a very long time, due to a injury. A short time after Yordanis Samón and Alfredo Despaigne joined the team. The arrival of these athletes made the fans of the Pirates happy; however, Samón barely touched the ball before he was set free. The story of Despaigne turned out to be different. This chunky player, considered the best Cuban slugger, shone with the Pirates. In only 33 matches he had an average of 338, with 8 runs and 24 RBI’s. Even, in a batting challenge of 6-6 he set a record in the LMB. His return to the Campeche, in 2014, seemed guaranteed.

Before the actual season started, the National Association of Baseball of the United States -that regulates minor leagues- warned the LMB that not a single player with Cuban residence could play for any team of the championship, because of a seizure. According to the regulations of the Office of Control of Foreign Actives (OCFA), that works for the Treasury Department, Cuban players that play for any club of organized american baseball or for Latin American leagues, must quit to every link they have with their home country and look for residence in a third nation.

Because of this, when the Pirates announced that Despaigne would join the team, in 2014, they had to present to the LMB a document that proved that Despaigne had residence in a different place. The player came to Mexico with a Cuban passport and was granted a work permit from the Mexican government; even though the Pirates enrolled him as Dominican. Besides, the director of the team was also Cuban, Jorge Fuentes; even though he was fired, because of a disagreement with the owners.

For almost an entire month there weren't any problems for Despaigne who was fourth to bat, he had an excellent performance: in 20 challenges he managed to have an average of 346, with five runs and 15 RBIs. Then, the scandal came out. The reporter of ESPN, Enrique Rojas, revealed in a report that the passport presented by the Pirates, that said Despaigne was Dominican, was fake.

Rojas explained that the case was revealed because other teams of the LMB, that had planned to hire Cuban players, demanded an explanation about Despaigne’s contract with Campeche. Hearing that, the LMB presented the document that the Pirates handed in and “some did the simplest thing an organization would do: find out if it was true that Despaigne had double nationality and if the document was real”, Rojas concluded.

Desperate, the board of directors of the Pirates emitted, the 15th of may, a press report saying that they had nothing to do with the “ ambiguous declarations of the Dominican authorities with relation to the illegality of the passport emitted in that country for the baseball player in our team, Alfredo Despaigne.” In this same communicate it was recognized that the Cuban sports authorities, the FCB in particular, had “nothing to do with the acts”.

The investigation started; but the Cuban authorities decided not to wait any longer and Despaigne flew back home. Upon his arrival he assured that neither him nor the FCB had anything to do with the “alleged possession of a fake Dominican passport”.

“I trust that my image won’t be affected in Mexico, and much less in Cuba because we have nothing to do with the passports issue. Now I am going to spend some time with my family, while the authorities of the Pirates and the Mexican leagues make everything clear”, said the player.

The scandal kept going when Enrique Rosado resigned as president of the club. In Cuban television, the president of the FCB, Higinio Vélez, made it clear that the board of directives of Campeche hadn't informed anyone of the presentation of another passport to Despaigne; however, his words, instead of clearing doubts, made people wonder other things, it didn’t make sense that the FCB didn't know about the public warning the National Baseball Association had made to the Mexican League.

Finally the investigation determined what many hoped for: the passport was fake, so the LMB suspended permanently Despaigne and expelled Rosado for life.

“Members are very uncomfortable, the Mexican League’s image has been ruined, an institution that will be 90 years old in 2015. We don’t want this to get messy because of a mistake, even if it was in purpose or not, the directives are upset and concerned so they want there to be an exemplar sanction so that nothing like that happens ever again”, said firmly Plinio Escalante, a member of the LMB.

The result of the scandal of the fake passport, not only affected Despaigne, the Pirates of Campeche and the FCB’s image, but it also represented a serious step back for Cuban players trying to get into the championships of professional clubs of the area, due to the fact that the way the LB dealt with the situation would've been the same as the Venezuelan, Dominican and Puerto Rican league. None of the teams in these tournaments will dear to hire a Cuban player that keeps his Cuban residence, fearing possible economic sanctions from the National Baseball Association of the United States. Sad, yet true. 

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