December 20, 2008: Aroldis Chapman, of the Holquin Cuban professional baseball team, sets a Cuban record by throwing a pitch at 102 mph.
According to baseball-reference.com’s Bullpen, Chapman’s pitch broke the record of another Cuban ace, Maels Rodriguez. Chapman would follow Rodriguez’s lead and defect from Cuba within a year’s time.
Rodriguez was a former Cuban Olympic star who shattered the Serie Nacional strike out record by fanning 263 batters in 178 2/3 innings in in 2000-01, breaking the 32-year-old record of 208 strikeouts. Rodriguez later suffered an injury that cost him 15 mph off his fastball and was left off the Cuban team for the 2003 Baseball World Cup, “allegedly for minor discipline infractions.”
Concerning the Rodriguez defection, from the baseball-reference.com wiki:
Maels and national team teammate Yobal Dueñas fled Cuba in October of 2003, going to El Salvador. While Rodríguez claimed that Cuban officials had lied about his decline, saying “these are things they invent to cut a little off the careers of some athletes,” it was clear that he was washed-up. He had several disappointing tryouts for scouts from major league teams.
Rodríguez was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2005 amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks but never played in the minor leagues.
Rodriguez saw his speed record broken when Chapman hit 102 in 2008 for the Holquin team. Chapman joined Holquin in 2005-06 at age 17, going 3-5 with a 4.33 ERA and then followed that season by going 4-3 with seven saves with a 2.77 ERA. In 2006-07, he struck out 100 and allowed only 59 hits 81 1/3 innings. In 2008-09, Chapman was 11-4 with a 4.03 ERA, striking out 130 in 118 1/3 innings. Chapman led the league in K’s, finished fourth in wins, was fifth in walks, and tied for the lead in wild pitches.
As to Chapman’s defection:
Chapman defected from Cuba just before the 2009 World Port Tournament started. He then established residency in the small European principality of Andorra, making him a free agent eligible to be signed by any Major League team. After auditioning for several teams, he signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds on January 11, 2010, worth $30.25 million over 6 years. The deal was comparable to the package offered by the Washington Nationals to Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 amateur draft. It is interesting to note that until he defected, his birthdate was listed as September 11, 1987; he declared a different birth date at that time, which made him six months younger.
Chapman pitched most of the 2010 season at AAA Louisville, going 9-6 with eight saves and a 3.57 ERA in 39 games (13 starts). He struck out 125 batters in 95 2/3 innings, at a rate of 11.8 K’s/nine innings. He also walked 4.9 batters/nine. Playing in 15 games for the Reds, Chapman was 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA, striking out 19 in 13 1/3 innings and walking only five. His first major league win came in his second appearance when he pitched one inning, striking out two in the Reds’ 6-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. On September 24, Chapman became the first pitcher measured to have thrown 105 mph in a major league game.