Rays' lone Cuban player eager for chance to go back for a game
Manager Kevin Cash and player representative Chris Archer said the team was excited by the chance to go to Cuba for the March 22 exhibition game.
And perhaps no one more so than OF Dayron Varona, a 28-year-old native Cuban who left the island on a boat to Haiti in November 2013 for the eventual chance to play in the United States.
"It's been three years since I've seen my family, so it would be a really great opportunity for me to go back to my homeland," Varona said Wednesday morning, with Rays staffer George Pappas interpreting.
Varona said Rays players had been asking him about the island nation, and he has told them it is safe and the people are respectful.
Though Varona, who played last season at the Double-A level, doesn't know whether he'll be one of the 28 players chosen to go on the trip, he said he would be eager to go back and didn't anticipate any repercussions.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Varona said. "Any Cuban who leaves the island the way we did loses citizenship. I'm not fearful of returning. It's the decision that I made and it was a good decision. I'm excited to maybe have the opportunuty to go back."
Varona played seven seasons in Cuba and said he made about $4 a month doing so.
Look for more on this story later and in Thursday's Tampa Bay Times.