HAVANA (AP)Cuban state sports officials on Tuesday denounced a plan by baseball players who left the island to play in the Major Leagues to field their own team in the next World Baseball Classic.

The president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, Juan Reynaldo Perez, called a news conference and accused the group of trying to usurp Cuba’s representation in the international competition.

A group called the Association of Cuban Professional Baseball Players announced last month that they hoped to form a team to compete in the Classic, which is scheduled for 2023.

The group involves former Major Leaguer Orlando ”El Duque” Hernandez and has the support of active players such as pitcher Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees and Yulieski Gurriel, Aledmys Diaz and Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros.

However, Major League Baseball, responding to a question from The Assocated Press, said the group would have to win approval from the World Baseball Softball Confederation in order to participate – and Cuba’s official baseball federation is a member of that group.

Baseball is the most popular sport in socialist Cuba, though its domestic league has been weakened by repeated departures of top players lured by the chance to earn millions in the Major Leagues.

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