MIAMI (AP) -- Cuban Mario Miguel Chaoui smiled widely at the thought of playing baseball for the Florida Marlins. But he isn't in any hurry.
''First thing, I'd like to learn the language, perfect it, later study and of course ... to play professional baseball,'' he said.
The 20-year-old Cuban college baseball player surfaced in Miami on Monday -- two days after he left his teammates at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport -- and said he would apply for asylum.
Cuba's communist government, which generally does not comment on defections, has been silent about Chaoui's announcement.
''It was very difficult for me, but I had to do it, because I felt a bit tired and it was a decision to have liberty, to reconcile with my family here,'' he said.
The Cuban team was scheduled to play a noon exhibition game at the Metrodome today against the University of St. Thomas team, which traveled to Cuba last winter. Chaoui had last been seeing getting into a car outside Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after Cubans arrived Saturday.
Arturo Espinosa, Chaoui's uncle, had driven to Minneapolis to persuade his nephew to defect. Chaoui, who said he had made no such plans, agreed, jumped in the car and they drove to Chicago to catch a flight to Miami.
Flanked by his grandmother and uncle Monday, Chaoui spoke to reporters in the office of sports agent Joe Cubas, who has helped other Cuban players after they fled the communist country.
''He leaves all his family, his immediate family'' in Cuba, including father, Mario, mother, Maria, and a sister, Cubas said. But Chaoui has his grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins in Miami, ''which is where he will live.''
Whether Chaoui will ever play in the majors remains unclear. Scouts have never seen him play, Cubas said.
''Considering he was part of a Cuban national team, he has a certain level of talent to compete internationally, which means he has sufficient talent to play professional baseball in the United States,'' said Cubas.
Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan said little, if anything, is known about Chaoui's abilities because major league teams aren't allowed to scout in Cuba, and the young player apparently hasn't had the chance to be seen much outside of Cuba.
Cubas said he plans to get Chaoui on a baseball field to throw and hit balls, and eventually bring in scouts to watch. But the second baseman has more pressing priorities. Cubas said Chaoui is ''as you can see undernutritioned (at) only 146 pounds,'' Cubas said. ''That'll be for the next two months (until) he gets up to about 170.''
In the next few days, Chaoui will meet with an immigration lawyer to request political asylum, Cubas said. Chaoui's family contacted Cubas for advice, but Cubas is not representing the player because doing so would jeopardize Chaoui's potential college playing career.
Chaoui's team, Equipo Caribe, or Team Caribbean, is made up mostly of students from the University of Havana and some students from a technical institute in the Cuban capital. His abrupt departure took teammates by surprise; some labeled him a traitor.
The Rev. Dennis Dease, the president of St. Thomas, said school officials made sure none of the St. Thomas players was harboring Chaoui.
''Our first thoughts are about the student's safety, so I'm happy for that,'' Dease said.
Dease said in a statement that the university ''is taking a position of neutrality on whether Chaoui should seek political asylum in the United States.''
The last time a Cuban team of college players came to the United States was in 1987, when a national team played several games in Minneapolis.
Former Minnesota Twin Tony Oliva, one of the last baseball players to leave Cuba when Fidel Castro took power, said Monday he could relate to Chaoui's dilemma.
''It's tough to make a decision because I love both countries, but I have to go from Cuba,'' Oliva said. ''Still, you know, I dream about Cuba.''
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