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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Canseco Is Hailed as Hero On Trip to Refugee Camp

U.S. NAVAL BASE, GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- Everywhere Jose Canseco went, the chants were the same.


"Canseco! Canseco!'' crowds of refugees would shout, followed by "Libertad! Libertad!''


Canseco, who was born in a suburb of Havana, visited 19 refugee camps Sunday to deliver on a promise he made to himself while watching news reports of rafters trying to reach Florida.


The Texas Rangers outfielder, carrying toys for Cuban children living in the tent cities, said the trip was one of the most educational experiences of his life.


"These people have to get out of here,'' Canseco said. "No one should have to live like this. These conditions are horrible.''


Canseco emigrated to the United States with his family in 1964, when he was 9 months old.


"I've always felt a special bond toward Cuba,'' he said. "After seeing this, I feel a stronger bond.''


One moment, Canseco was driving softballs over a fence into a mass of refugees. Later, he was wiping a tear from his eye as a gathering of children sang of wanting to be free.


Canseco, whose own off-the-field problems have included accusations of battery and much-publicized speeding incidents, was accompanied by his father, Jose Sr., and by Seattle Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who was raised in Miami by Dominican parents. The entourage delivered 9,000 kilograms of toys in conjunction with World Relief Service.


The refugees welcomed him as a combination of Santa Claus and Babe Ruth. One Cuban after another approached Canseco, reciting his career statistics. They all remember him as the 40-40 man -- the only player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season.