By Yusseff Díaz
Leslie Anderson was a top player in Cuba went he decided to defect in 2009. He was a national team member who had participated in countless international events including the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.
He was also in the midst of one of his best seasons hitting .381 with 13 dingers and 66 RBI’s when he decided to hightail it out of Cuba to try his luck at securing a big league contract.
Anderson eventually signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 for four years 1.7 million dollars. In five years in their farm system only got as far as Durham (AAA). Although he was highly productive during his time with the Floridian squad hitting .292 with 53 long balls, 248 runs batted and slashed .347/.435/.786, but he never got to grace the grand stage.
In 2013, he was released by Tampa and later that winter he was signed by the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon League.
The Nippon League and an old friend
In 2014, Anderson had a great first half in his first season in Japan hitting .319 with 15 round-trippers and 50 RBI’s in his first 87 games.
Not only was he hitting well but he was also able to catch up with an old friend from the Cuban National Team, Frederich Cepeda, ” Reuniting with Freddy Cepeda was something beautiful thing. I was scared at how he would react to seeing me after my defection, but he acted like I never left Cuba and we saw each other everyday. It was good to see [puppy] which is the nickname we gave him. Words can’t describe the joy I felt when I saw him again. “
Injuries marred the rest of his career in Japan and in 173 total games, Anderson produced an average of .261, deposited 22 balls in the seats and knocked in 81.
After being released by Yomiuri in 2017 the Cuban played one more year in the Mexican League and then disappeared off the map until this year.
Anderson reappeared in the Serie Nacional this year with his hometown Camagüey Toros at the age of 37, making him the second person to sign a contract with a big league club to return to the Cuban League ( ex-Dodger Erisbel Arruebarruena was the other).
In total, he hit .266 and drove in 14 runs last season in Cuba, but injuries once again hampered him.
But during the playoffs, he caught fire and was an integral piece to Camagüey ‘s run to the finals of the Cuban League hitting .314 and driving in nine runs.
Although his Toros didn’t win a championship it was still a wonderful year for Anderson, “I came back to Cuba to relive my passion. Baseball is my oxygen and thank God I got the opportunity to return and play in my homeland. I never imagined I would have such a beautiful season this year in Camagüey. “
It looks like he will be returning to Cuba for quite some time. Let’s see what the future had in store for former Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer Leslie Anderson.