With the number of Cuban natives finding success in the Majors growing by the season, more players have continued to try their luck at defecting from the communist country. For every success story, countless failed attempts go unreported.
For those on the Cuban national team, the escape is made slightly easier during visits to other countries for exhibition games. However, such wasn’t the case for Hector Olivera. The 30-year-old infielder briefly touched on his experience and the stress in now reuniting with his family, via Jacob Unruh of NewsOK.com:
The journey from Cuba to where I went first to Haiti was very dangerous, but thank God I’m here right now,” Olivera said through a translator. I’m so grateful for the Dodgers for signing me, and I did everything I can to prepare myself to be here,” Olivera said. “I’m trying to get (my family) here as soon as possible. It’s a long process, I’ve been really patient, but I’m working on it.”
Olivera established residency in Haiti, which permitted him to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. As they’ve often done in the international market, the Los Angeles Dodgers flexed their financial muscles, signing Olivera to a six-year, $62.5 million contract.
Prior to the deal becoming official in mid-May, Olivera traveled to the Dodgers’ Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic. From there, he’s gone to the club’s Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz., then to Double-A Tulsa, Triple-A Oklahoma City, and more recently back to Camelback Ranch to rehab a hamstring strain.
While Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has suggested on multiple occasions Olivera is likely to reach the Majors this season, he’s also maintained the Cuban native won’t be rushed along the process.
Along with Olivera needing to get reacquainted to playing baseball competitively after one year away from the game, Friedman has placed equal importance on comfort level off the field. There currently isn’t a timetable for Olivera’s return to Triple-A.
However, Olivera has begun running curved lines, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Sunday. That typically is one of the final hurdles for a player returning from a hamstring strain before they return to game action. Olivera visited the Dodgers at Chase Field during the club’s road trip.