AMSTERDAM – A Cuban pitcher considered by many baseball scouts to be the No. 1 left-handed prospect in the world left his hotel and vanished before the first ball was thrown at a tournament in the Netherlands, leaving his whereabouts a mystery, a spokesman for the Dutch team said Friday.
Aroldis Chapman, a player with a 100 mph fastball, was seen walking through the lobby of his hotel and climbing into a waiting car within an hour of the team's arrival Wednesday for a four-nation tournament, spokesman Loet van Schelbeet said.
The 21-year-old failed to show up Thursday for Cuba's first game in Rotterdam, according to van Schelbeet.
The head of the Cuban delegation, Luis Carton, said he also had no idea where Chapman was.
"We are waiting for information. We do not know anything," Carton told The Associated Press. "No one knows anything about what happened, if he is sick, died or left."
It was not known whether Chapman was defecting and planning to sign with a major league team. To become a free agent, he would have to establish residency outside the United States.
Van Schelbeet said Chapman's disappearance appeared to be well planned. He carried no luggage when he left the hotel, which was a few minutes away from the Rotterdam stadium.
He would be the most prominent Cuban baseball defector since Jose Contreras left during a tournament in Mexico in 2002.
Spokesmen for the Dutch Foreign Ministry and Department of Immigration said they had no knowledge of the case. A Spanish Foreign Ministry official also said he never heard of Chapman.
U.S. officials in The Hague said they could not comment on individual cases because of U.S. privacy laws. They said, however, that arrangements exist for Cubans seeking asylum to enter the United States.