Despite baseball being the national sport, its followers don’t get access to information about the best teams in the world. No space on television nor on radio divulges the results of the leagues in the United States, Japan, and South Korea, the most prestigious.
Neither are the winter tournaments that are played in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, or Venezuela. Nor a trace of news about the series put on every year in the Caribbean with the best squads of nine.
On an island all-in for baseball, there aren’t specialized magazines on the theme. Scholastic and youth categories play almost clandestinity. Only a pair of journalists, Jesús Suarez Valmaña and the talented Yasel Porto, write articles for the website of the broadcaster COCO or the website of the Cuban Baseball Federation.
Playing the sport of balls and strikes in Cuba is pretty expensive. Not to mention the bad state of the fields, full of weeds and without adequate care. Parents have to buy from their pockets — in convertible pesos — the sporting implements of the discipline, like bats, gloves, and spikes.
Raciel knows well what it has cost him to keep his 15 year-old son playing baseball. “I assure you I’ve spent more than 600 dollars in sporting goods. In the school where he has a grant, the food is poor, and I’ve also had to spend on reinforcing his diet.”
Leonel is another father who has long term plans for his son, a player in the youth category. “I hope he stays interested in baseball. I think that some day he might go play in the big tent, in the United States.”
It’s the dream of many young ballplayers. And including some of the big stars who defect at first chance. The salaries with six zeros in the Majors make Cuban ballplayers dizzy.
But it is so hard and expensive to train and play organized baseball, the fans will say. In these months of September where we don’t play on the Island, people are thirsty to know what’s happening in the leagues in other countries.
At the famous and busy rock in Central Park, much of the Capitol, from very early in the morning a large group of followers argue in loud voices about their favorite passion: ball.
It’s there where one can meet some person with access to the Internet, to the Miami dailies, or the specialized magazine USA Baseball. In that way, followers of the sport can keep up to date with what happens in the Big Leagues.
Also the performances of Cuban ballplayers are followed with interest. And let there be no doubt, the first baseman for the California Angels, Kendry Morales, an ex-Industralista who shone on that team, is a sporting hero the length and width of the country.
The most absurd is that Cuba, a nation where the soccer that is played is vulgar and basic, there exist spaces dedicated to the universal sport. Spanish and European leagues are rebroadcast, and results of South American play are shown frequently.
On this island where the absurd is almost a law, baseball fans suffer for the drought of news. One cause might be that the authorities fear that with the broadcast of games in foreign leagues, the desire of national players to emigrate grows.
Perhaps they consider that the local fans shouldn’t see Cubans who’ve defected. Or see impoverished ex-children of Maracaibo, Caguas, or Santiago de los Caballeros converted into stars of the first degree and earning stratospheric salaries, when the ballplayers on the Island earn workers’ salaries.
Another cause is political. The Castro brothers are interested in making sure they speak as badly possible of the United States and the capitalist countries. And that phobia is paid for by Cuban baseball fans.
Photo: azulísimo, Panorama. Latin American Stadium, in El Cerro, Havana.
Translated by: JT
September 16, 2010