Yunel Escobar is back in Miami, the city he escaped to from his native Cuba back in 2004.
The Los Angeles Angels’ starting third baseman isn’t here for a vacation. No, he’s here to become one of the newest citizens of the United States.
Escobar, 34, will be one of 98 who will take part in a special citizenship ceremony at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Kendall on Friday morning where he will be sworn in.
According to a release from the USCIS, Escobar will be among family and friends when he takes the Oath of Allegiance.
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The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that the Angels gave Escobar permission to leave their spring training camp in Arizona to head back to South Florida to take the test.
“He wants to become a U.S. citizen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Times. “Especially with his background of how he got to this country, he feels connected with it.”
Escobar was smuggled out of Cuba in 2004 and landed in Key West after a few days of surviving on water and crackers while making the trek across the Florida straits.
“If we had known what it would be like,” Escobar told the Washington Post in a long interview published in 2015, “I would have stayed in Cuba.”
In the Post interview Escobar did while playing with the Nationals, he told his tale of escape and how he lived with his smugglers — who are now in prison — in Miami for eight months until he paid them their fee charged to get out of his home country.
Escobar was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Braves in 2005. He has played for five different teams (Atlanta, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Washington and the Angels) over the past 10 seasons and has 83 home runs and 488 RBI in almost 5,000 at-bats.
“I got to the U.S. and went to work so that I could help my family,” Escobar told the Washington Post.
“My mind was focused on helping my family. Becoming a baseball player in this country was big for me. Not everyone makes it.”
The keynote speaker for Friday’s ceremony will be Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
According to the USCIS, others becoming U.S. citizens on Friday hail from the following 26 countries: The Bahamas, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Phillipines, Romania, Spain and Venezuela.