Pitcher: Visa granted by Nicaragua expired

Updated: January 19, 2004, 5:16 PM ET
Associated Press

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- New York Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras says his family was barred from leaving Cuba, the newspaper La Prensa reported Monday.

Jose Contreras

Contreras told the newspaper that Cuban officials had twice refused permission for his wife Miriam Murillo to go to Nicaragua and that she would have to wait four years before applying again.

He told La Prensa that Nicaragua had given a visa to his wife and daughters Naylan, 11, and Naylenis, 3, but that it had expired.

Contreras was a star with the Cuban national baseball team before defecting and signing with the Yankees in December 2002.

He has legal residence in Nicaragua, though he also has a house in Tampa, Fla. He spoke to the newspaper at a hotel in Managua.

"While they call me a traitor, I don't feel that I'm a traitor," Contreras told La Prensa. "I have not committed any offense, any crime. I took the decision to leave the island. It was a personal decision, and my daughters and my wife should not have to pay any price. They aren't guilty of anything, even if any guilt exists.

"For eight years, I gave my best for my country and now they treat me this way. I'm not a politician. I'm a sportsman, and if my country had treated me better, I would not be here, I'd be in Cuba."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press