- Enrique Rojas, ESPNdeportes
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Cuban slugger Alfredo Despaigne, 28, a three-time MVP in Cuba's national league and heralded as a talent at the level of countrymates Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes, has been playing his second Mexican League season with a falsified Dominican passport, Dominican authorities said Tuesday.
Despaigne -- 5-foot-8 and 225 pounds, and hitting .333 with 14 RBIs and five home runs through 18 games with the Piratas de Campeche this season -- is playing professionally in Mexico as part of a program between Cuban baseball and the Mexican leagues that allows Cuban prospects to gain experience outside the Caribbean island. The outfielder, who hit 36 home runs during the 2011-12 season, made no attempt to defect his first season and returned to Cuba after 33 games.
Despaigne's passport was issued in his name April 24 , 2013, at the passport office in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A source close to the player said Despaigne was in Cuba playing for his club, Granma, during that time and that Despaigne has no family in the Dominican Republic, nor has he ever visited the island. The source also said Despaigne did not know that he was registered as a Dominican in the Mexican summer league and would not comment until he had more information.
As part of the Cuba-Mexico baseball exchange program, Despaigne and other Cubans played in Mexico last season with no issues. However, before the start of this season, the source said, Cuba's national baseball association told Mexican summer league authorities they could not sign players residing in Cuba due to the U.S. embargo and the relationship the Mexican League has with Major League Baseball.
Unlike the United States, Mexico does not have an economic embargo against Cuba, but the Mexican League maintains a working relationship with the MLB minor leagues. Residency, or a passport from a country such as the Dominican Republic, would facilitate the means for a Cuban athlete to defect.
Francia Hernandez, the colonel in charge of passport fraud in the Dominican Republic, told ESPN that the Dominican passport Despaigne is using has three irregularities: The numbers of the passport and of the book belong to two different Dominican citizens, and the ID card used to make the passport is false.
"At this time we are opening an investigation to determine the legality of the passport Campeche submitted to register Despaigne," Mexican baseball league president Plinio Escalante said. "If we find an irregularity, he will have to stop playing immediately and the club will be sanctioned.
"We have no precedent for a case like this and thus we have no established penalties," Escalante said. "This is a completely new case for the league.
"For a Cuban to play in the Mexican leagues, he must present some kind of documentation that shows he has residence or nationality from another country."
Campeche Pirates president Enrique Rosado said he knew nothing about a falsified passport.
"This is the first I am hearing of it," Rosado told ESPN. "The Mexican League is a well-respected institution. Campeche respects the rules."
Despaigne broke the Cuban league regular-season home run record during the 2012 season, hitting 35 and breaking the old record of 33 shared by Cespedes and Abreu.
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