By Jorge Casuso | Miami New Times
When Miami sports agent Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar, 51, flew into Miami Friday after spending 13 years in a Cuban jail, he felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle. The small children he had left behind were all grown up and Miami had sprouted a new skyline.
Hernandez, who tried to help Orlando “El Duque Hernandez” and other baseball stars defect from the Communist island, served “every last day” of his 15 year-sentence. (A Cuban jail-year is 10 months long.) And he believes what he did was right.
“What we did we did it with the best knowledge that we were doing good for people,” Hernandez Nodar said shortly after arriving on a Taca flight from Cuba.
His 24-year-old son, who was 11 when his father was imprisoned in 1996, and his mother, Marta, were among the family members who greeted him. Another son and two daughters are arriving this weekend.
Hernandez Nodar says he was treated well in prison and his mother and one of his sons visited him in jail.
Thomas Cronin, a Cape Cod businessman who was Hernandez Nodar’s partner in the effort to bring Cuban players to the states, also was on hand.
He brought along a biography of “El Duque” to show Hernandez. “I hope it says nice things about us,” Hernandez Nodar said.
Hernandez Nodar, a Cuban native who moved to Miami with his family when he was two, was attending a baseball game at Jose Antonio Huelgas Stadium when he was arrested at noon on August 10, 1996.
Cuban officials found the copies of visas to third countries Hernandez Nodar had brought for “El Duque,” Alberto Hernandez and German Mesa “to show them we were the real deal,” Cronin said. Cronin was allowed to leave three days later after being detained at Havana Airport.
Hernandez Nodar’s arrest effectively shut down the defections of Cuban ball players to the states.