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«I want to become the best lefty in the world»

Interview with Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, after leaving the national team in Holland.

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What are your aspirations? Have you had any contact with any Major Leagues team?

My aspiration is to become the best lefty in the world. That's has always been my objective since I got here, since I made the decision to abandon the Cuban National team. I'd like to begin playing in the major leagues; so far I don't have a preference. I'm only going to sign with that team that is of my convenience.

Now that you have become a free agent, you have created a lot of expectation in the baseball world. Tell us how did you started in baseball? Do you remember any player that inspired you, any specific match that you consider the most important one?

I started playing baseball at 11-years-old, as a first baseman. But in reality, I did not began in baseball, but in boxing. I was a boxer and then I switched to baseball. Since I was a kid I admired Jose Ariel Contreras (with the Chicago White Sox's). He has been my favorite player since childhood up to now.

In relation to the games, the most important victory was one in 2007 in the Taipei World Cup. They gave me the opportunity to pitch in that final game, and it as been the most important game I have pitched so far, as well as the ones that I pitched in the World Baseball Classic. I feel very happy for that performance.

There are some friend of yours from the Cuban team who are right now in the United States, like Yadel Marti and Yasser Gomez. Have you been in contact with them?

No, since I left Cuba I haven't had any contacts with them.

In a hypothetic situation, if you were allowed, would you like to keep being part of the Cuban Team at the same time you play for an American baseball team?

That would be my biggest dream. It's a little bit difficult, but yes, I'd love to have that opportunity.

The fastballs that you pitched in the World Baseball Classic attracted a lot of attention.... What's the throw that you dominate the most?

The fastball. I feel very secure with it, but there's another that I like and one that I think is very important for a pitcher... the speed change. I use it a lot. Some of my pitches in the World Baseball Classic where speed change throws, with the difference that I move them around very well.

During the Baseball Classic there was pressure from the fans, but there was also political pressure. There was speculations that Fidel Castro himself called the team's manager and made decision over the line-up....

The only pressure we had was to win. There's a lot of pressure from Cuba... if you win, if you loose. Our objective was to win, but in the classic all the teams were strong teams. In regards to the team's management, the athletes didn't know much on what was going on. We did see that there were many changes in the line up. But if there were telephone calls or not.... that's speculation.

Other baseball players like Puerto Ricans and Dominicans can play in the Major Leagues and come back to their countries without any problems, Even some Cubans —like volleyball players and track and field runners— can play in professional tournaments. However, the Cuban baseball players and boxers do not enjoy that freedom....

None of us agree with that. Other sports like volleyball and track and field have professional tournaments in other countries, with the possibility for the Cuban athletes to participate. We, the baseball players, do not have that possibility and we don't know why. There are many Cuban baseball players in Cuba who would like to play in the Major Leagues. The problem is that we are not allowed t go back to Cuba then. Not everyone makes the decision to abandon his country, because they know that they won't be able to return. It's a very difficult decision.

Did you leave family back in Cuba?

I left my sisters, my parents and my wife, who gave birth on June 28. I left my family, but I think that this is the best step that I have taken, so I can help them from now on. This is the best decision I have ever made.

The Cuban regime label those Cuban baseball players who leave the country like "traitors". How do you think you would be perceived back in Cuba by your colleagues?

Well, at least among us, the athletes, we don't talk about betrayal, but about a decision that someone makes. All the young Cuban baseball players would like to play in the Major Leagues, but they can't because the current restrictions in our country.

I did not have the opportunity to meet Contreras, for example. Other colleagues of mine did treated him, they are his friends and they love him. The only thing is that they are not together and they cannot see each other, but they love each other the same. Those who left Cuba made a decision and no one has the right to judge over that.


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