By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES — Big leaguer pitcher Jose Contreras recently became the first Cuban “defector” from the national baseball team to return to the island under the new immigration reform. It had been ten years since he touched Cuban soil.
Contreras visited his mother, who was in the hospital, and his rural home town of Las Martinas, Pinar del Rio. He has been warmly greeted by his old friends, teammates and fans, many wanting to take a picture with him.
Contreras, 41, is recovering from an injury and hopes to gain another chance to pitch in Major League Baseball. He has earned over $67 million dollars with the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies over ten seasons.
CNN ran an emotional video of Contreras playing in a pickup game that also included his ex-teammate Pedro Luis Lazo, who recently retired from Cuban baseball.
Contreras was all smiles and although he will return soon to the US to get ready for the upcoming season, he is expected to return often to Cuba.
“Already, in the plane, I was crying. This is something big that I had waited 10 years for,” Contreras told CNN as Cuban fans lined up to snap photos with him on cell phone cameras.
He also encouraged other Cuban players to return home for a visit. “It’s the dream of anyone who lives outside Cuba, to be able to return and be with your family and the fans here,” he told CNN.
“I am really happy to have him back and to see each other again and remember things we did together,” Cuban pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo said. “Thank God he can come back now when he wants. We will be seeing each other a lot more now.”