Andy Morales was a player on the rise when he decided to leave Cuba in 2000 in the search of a better future in professional baseball and that’s where his odyssey began. This journey included two failed attempts to leave the island and repatriation before he reached the promised land.
In nine seasons in the Serie Nacional
with the Habana Cowboys, the infielder hit .319, but he’s most recognized for the homer he hit in Baltimore during the exhibition game between the Cuban National Team and the Orioles.
Andy Morales got as far a Double-A with the Yankees and Red Sox organizations before his professional career ended in 2002 with the Trenton Thunder.
His son Yohandy is a top prospect in the 2020 baseball draft and expects to be selected in the first three rounds of the upcoming Rule 4 draft.
Although he never made the Majors his homer against the O’s is a lasting memory in the minds of plenty of Cuban baseball fans.
Your odyssey was enough to break the toughest of humans. How were you able to keep your wits and how did you feel when you finally escaped the island?
I don’t wish my journey on anybody, those who have experienced the journey of leaving the island understand what I’m talking about. To go from being a respected player on the island to all of sudden being an outcast is something that really hurts.
It wasn’t easy to leave my homeland and my family and my pregnant wife behind while being under surveillance by the island’s law enforcement. Although I had to start all over it was relieving to touch ground on free land. But through it all, my faith was what kept me in check.
In your greatest accomplishments in life, where do you categorize your signing with the Yankees?
It’s at top of that list. It isn’t everyone that is able to sign with the most recognized baseball team in the world. A team where plenty of baseball luminaries have made a name for themselves. It was an honor to be part of an organization that has been home to such great players like Orlando Hernández, José Contreras and Aroldis Chapman.
What were your sentiments when you slugged that legendary home run against Baltimore in 1999?
In reality, I was on top of the world at the moment, after 40 years of Cuban baseball being closed off to the professional world we were able to face a professional team and prove that we belonged on the field with them. It was an honor to hit a homer against the best pitching in the world. The only thought running through mind at the time as a ran the bases was how proud my family and the Cuban people must have been of me.
Give me your opinion on the canceled accord between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation?
At the time, I was happy for the players of Cuba because they would no longer have to risk their lives at sea in order to achieve their dreams and also would no longer have to leave their families behind to do so. But I would prefer everything be dine under their own umbrella and not that of the Cuban Baseball Federation who said that professional baseball was slave baseball, when in fact the slave baseball was the one they were playing in Cuba. They called us traitors for coming over and then they wanted to benefit from that they were so vehemently opposed to. How does that make any sense?
Is there any player that you have ever admired?
Yes, I admired Lazaro Vargas the third baseman for the Industriales during my playing days in Cuba. I always would try to emulate his game.