TRAVEL
03/19/2013 09:44 am ET Updated Mar 20, 2013

Cuba Travel: Baseball Star Rey Ordonez Allowed To Return Home Thanks To Obama Travel Policies

Retired baseball player Rey Ordonez, right, stops to joke with a street artist as he takes a stroll through Havana, Cuba, Sun
Retired baseball player Rey Ordonez, right, stops to joke with a street artist as he takes a stroll through Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 17, 2013. Ordonez, 42, traveled to the island 20 years after defecting, under the new travel law in effect since January that eliminated restrictions on visiting the island. The shortstop defected from Cuba's university team in 1993 during a tournament in Buffalo, New York. He then went on to play for the Mets, the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

When Rey Ordᅢ빼ᄆez defected from Cuba in 1993, he became only the second baseball player to leave a club on his native island and try to make it in Major League Baseball. Throughout the following decades, Ordᅢ빼ᄆez traveled across America playing for the New York Mets, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Chicago Cubs, but never made it back to Cuba because U.S. laws banned his return. This week, Ordᅢ빼ᄆez took advantage of the Cuba travel policy enacted in January and finally returned to Havana, where he was given a hero's welcome.

An AP reporter found Ordᅢ빼ᄆez hanging out in a hotel in downtown Havana, taking pictures with his fans and generally having a good time. The shortstop expressed his joy on returning to his homeland and his shock at his star power, saying "It surprised me because I've been gone twenty years and, really, I didn't play much in Cuba."

Ordᅢ빼ᄆez owes his trip to a change in Cuba's migration law. He traveled on a Cuban passport after an 8-year restriction on his return for illegally defecting expired.

If there is a rebuttal to the argument against Cuba travel -- made by folks like Marco Rubio -- it is surely the photos of Ordᅢ빼ᄆez seeing his birthplace and family again through new eyes.

CORRECTION: The original story stated Ordonez was able to return to Cuba thanks to the Obama policy initiative allowing so-called People-to-People trips. This was inaccurate.

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