This article was written by Luis Felipe Rojas and published on Diario de Cuba on May 29th, 2012. To read the original publication click here
It is May twenty-ninth, the dawn creeps up and brings the end of baseball season with a new champion: Ciego de Avila. Amid the euphoria which caused this tight closing against the giants of the Industriales, the deficiencies of the national pastime were brought to light.
Cuban baseball has been suffering for some time now from an ill which needs a complete cure, so that the passion which can be seen in the provincial stadiums and during international events could crystallize.
Out in the field, during the last few days of the season, when the eight best teams are playing, we can still witness running and batting mistakes, technical-tactical errors, players who do not know how to bunt the ball, and many other aspects which should have been learned during young ages. Clearly, these factors demonstrate the low level of competitiveness which this sport finds itself in.
What is not learned in the base…
Nearly all athletes, specialists, and fans agree in that their are economic difficulties and lack of attention for the social sport in Cuba. “It seems”, says Jorge during an illustrious Sports Debate in the city of Holguin, “that we have returned to the ‘championship-ism’ of the 1980′s”. Like him, others believe that without strong institutional support for the infant-juvenile leagues, there will not be good baseball for a while.
“It’s not enough”, adds Jorge, “to give it all to the established finalists, considering that this has been lacking from the moment the sport was begun”.
The municipal stadiums seem to be in post-war conditions, or like territories which have been ransacked by a plague. In various municipalities of the Eastern provinces, the baseball parks are home to the provincial season games without the frontal net which protects spectators, as well as lack of a roof in the bleachers and deficient illumination (or none).
What can INDER offer? Very little. The horrid diet and the deplorable fields go against the preparation and development of the performances. If the minimal resources are kept for the national championship, what can the baseball players of grade school levels or residents of far municipalities expect?
In provinces such as Las Tunas and Holguin, various teams play the provincial championship with players who end up returning to their homes through their own means afterward. The transportation provided by INDER is a group of trucks in which people must board or get off in order to leave or return. But since the conditions of lodging are horrible, many players prefer, after all, to sleep under their own roofs.
On occasions, the TV and Radio programs dedicated to baseball echo the fact that many people have shifted towards soccer. Every weekend, the TV broadcasts the best of that sport: the European league in all its versions.
Baseball, a captive of an ideology, has not been able to surpass the international obstacles in which the national sport faces. The day is still very far when they exhibit, as a final option, the League of the Caribbean, or its similar games in Venezuela or Mexico. Meanwhile, out in the bleachers and in the homes, the public asks for blood, literally.
The official guide to baseball (2009-2010), even while compiling the statistics starting on 1959 with the euphemistic name of “Revolutionary Baseball” (alluding to the rise of power of Fidel Castro), has maintained the names of those who have decided to leave the country or stay in their foreign excursions and are now stars or once shined as professional athletes. Jose Ariel Contreras, Alexei Ramirez, Aroldis Chapman, Livan and “El Duke” Hernandez, among others, make up the statistics: but they would not dare show their faces on TV.
Internet, the programs stolen through parabolic antennas, or those brought by Cuban-American tourists fill up some of that space. Under names such as “The Best Plays” or “The Best of the Best”, people record the bravery of Yunel Escobar or Kendrys Morales (or information on one of the latest deserters, Yoenis Cespedes) on CDs or USB drives. The ghost of Major League Baseball travels under the table and finds a way to sneak into Cuban homes.
Meanwhile, the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party seals off the floodgates so that no more baseball players can explain or commit what Marxist denomination classifies to be “ideological distractions”. But the deep country continues the passion, and very few ever remember to refer to baseball as revolutionary.