Saturday, February 07, 2015

ESPN Films 30 for 30 Vol 2: Brothers in Exile

Running on the treadmill, I watched Brothers in Exile. This is the twenty-fourth installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 volume II. An episode guide for Vol II is here. I am still working to catch up on all of the episodes that were released last fall.

This 30 for 30 tells the story of half-brothers Livan and Orlando Hernandez. They were both star pitchers for the Cuban National Baseball team who defected to the United States to play major league baseball. In addition to their personal stories, the film looks at the conditions in Cuba following the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Livan defected first in 1996. Banking on his status as the hottest young prospect in Cuba, he defected via Mexico and signed with the Florida Marlins. In his second season with the Marlins, Livan was the MVP in the NLCS and the World Series. He went on to pitch in the major leagues for 17 seasons, including four seasons with the San Francisco Giants. Livan was on the 2002 Giants team that made it to the World Series.

When Livan defected, Orlando was banned from professional baseball in Cuba for life; he was suspected of having helped Livan escape. On Christmas 1997, an increasingly frustrated and harassed Orlando left Cuba in a small boat. He was stranded on a deserted island for days before being picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. Less than a year later, "El Duque" was helping pitch the New York Yankees to a world championship in 1998. Orlando went on to pitch in the major leagues for 9 seasons, including making it to the World Series five times with New York Yankees.

Both Livan and Orlando appear in the film to tell their stories. Not expecting very much, I was pleasantly surprised by the film; I enjoyed it a great deal.

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