The vessel rocks uncomfortably atop large waves. You haven't eaten in days. You know what could happen if you're caught. You fear the worst.
"The first thought was, 'Wow, I went through so much just to die on the edge,'" Dariel Alvarez, 25, recalled recently in Spanish. "I was scared to come so far and fall short."
Two years later, the Triple-A Norfolk outfielder is one of the Orioles' rising position prospects, combining a steady glove in the outfield with an electrifying plate presence.
There's a lot Alvarez refuses to discuss about defecting from Camaguey, Cuba, to Mexico in 2012 to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues. Ask how much he paid to desert the island nation, or who was waiting for him in Mexico, and he replies: "If I tell you, I'll lie."
But he will talk about the journey that led him to Norfolk and to being under consideration for a September call-up to the Orioles.
After leaving his house in the dead of night, Alvarez and eight others fought their way through thick forest to a remote beach, where they hid in the bushes, whispering prayers, as they awaited their transport.
When it finally arrived, their relief was fleeting, because they still faced a two-day trip to a destination that Alvarez had never seen. Along the way came an unexpected refueling stop in the perilous ocean swells. Getting spotted meant an expedited return to Cuba, followed by time in prison.
"People know who I am, since I play baseball, and it's the national sport," Alvarez said. "If they catch you, it's like you're being a traitor to your homeland. … They don't understand why you're leaving: for your family and for your dreams."
But they radioed another boat for gasoline, and after stockpiling enough for the remainder of the journey, continued west. At about 1 a.m., Alvarez estimates, he set foot in his new country.
"We had gone 53 years under the same regime, but that wasn't the problem for me," he said. "You always strive for more. You want more. In Cuba, that didn't exist."
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bs-sp-orioles-dariel-alvarez-0815-20140814,0,2415487.story#ixzz3ASeGmYrS