Cuban baseball star defects during US visit: report

UNITED STATES - A top Cuban baseball pitcher has defected to the United States in the latest move by a promising young athlete to leave the communist-ruled island, according to news reports on Wednesday.

Misael Siverio, 24, left Cuba with a national team for an exhibition game in Iowa this week, but slipped out of the hotel where the team was staying late on Tuesday, the Spanish-language el Nuevo Herald newspaper reported.

The left-hander told the Florida newspaper he had defected to the United States and hoped to make a career in Major League Baseball.

"Leaving your life behind is not easy, but it's a decision that I have given a lot of thought to, and I took it for my future and for that of my family," Siverio told the newspaper.

"My dream is to make it in the major leagues, and from now on I will take the necessary steps to make that happen," he added.

The website for the Cuban national baseball squad lists Siverio as a team member traveling to the United States for a series of games starting on Thursday. Attempts to reach the organisation for comment were not successful late on Wednesday.

Siverio is the latest in a line of Cuban athletes who have bolted the island nation.

Among Cuban baseball players, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez smuggled his way out by boat in 1997 and became a star pitcher with the New York Yankees, More recently, Yoenis Cespedes, 27, a power-hitting outfielder with the Oakland Athletics, left Cuba in 2011, while Yasiel Puig, 22, who defected in 2012, has had a spectacular debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season.

Defectors have also included film artists, ballet dancers and football players.