“You can’t go home again” is a figurative saying in the United States, meaning once you leave the nest for the first time, it’s never quite the same once you happen to go back. For athletes who defected from Cuba, ones such as major league right-hander Jose Contreras, “You can’t go home again” has had a harshly literal meaning.
Since defecting in 2002 , Conteras has made a lot of money pitching in the U.S. for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. But unlike foreign players from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, he could never buy a ticket home because of political barriers. Making the separation even tougher for Contreras: Being unable see his mother, who has been in a hospital recovering from a limb amputation. No matter that Contreras was one of the most successful and famous Cuban athletes of the past 20 years, nicknamed “The Bronze Titan” by Fidel Castro himself — defectors weren’t welcome.
Starting on Jan. 14, that began to change, and Contreras has become the first high-profile athlete to take advantage of immigration changes in Cuba that allow political defectors to visit home. CNN did a terrific feature on Contreras , including the video of him playing in a pickup game during his return:
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