Cuba: Baseball and Rumors / Iván García

If you want to see first hand how the syndrome of secrecy works in Cuba, visit the office of the commissioner of baseball. Such is the lack of information, that not even the managers of the teams know for sure the day and month the new season will start. No one knows what the new structure will be nor the amount of equipment. Or the number of games that will be played.

It’s all rumors. According to reliable sources, the next National Series might field 16 teams. One for each province and the municipality of Isla de la Juventud. They would do away with the Metropolitan team, the second of the capital, despite being at the bottom of the standings in the last five years, its exit could cause many talented players to be without a team.

The amazing thing is that for a couple of weeks, Metropolitan began its preparation for the upcoming season, as officially no senior official from the baseball federation has spoken on the subject. In any organized league, the schedule is known months in advance as is the start date of the season. Last season, two weeks before opening day the details were still unknown.

Another absurdity is the transfer of players. In order to respect territoriality, players must play for their provinces. Only in prominent cases are they allowed to compete in other teams. It has set up a summer soap opera with the alleged departure of the excellent player Yulieski Gourriell from the Sancti Spiritus team. For personal problems, Yulieski’s family decided to settle in Havana.

The All-Star third baseman said in an interview that he intends to play with the famous Cuban baseball team, the Industriales. But the case was handled like a top state secret. On September 3rd the suspense ended. The sports authorities refused Gourriell permission to wear the blue jersey.

In 52 seasons there have been major players moving to different situations. Most striking was the case of the national team starter, Antonio Muñoz, who moved from Sancti Spiritus to Cienfuegos.

Or Villa Clara’s Alejo O’Reilly who decided to play for Ciego de Avila.

If it’s decided to remove Metropolitan, the selection of The Industrialists would have a team full of stars in the batting, but after a few years, young talent stagnates if it’s not able to play regularly. It happens that the current structure of Cuban baseball has a pronounced slump. Many youth who complete their category does not have a tournament where they develop their skills.

Before they competed in a league championship parallel to the local championship. Now that tournament disappeared. In the last 12 years Cuban baseball has seen its quality fall into a tailspin. The causes are known. The principal is the departure of about 250 players who have chosen to play as professionals abroad. Another problem is the outdated concepts of preparing pitchers and batters.

With just five months to the World Classic III, even the baseball authorities still are not clear what kind of tournament is going to be played. In November, the national team will probably stumble a couple of times with its peer from Taipei, China as a warmup for the Classic. Ideally, the local season breaks in October. But it is very likely that due to the stop in Asia the championship will open in late November. If so, there would be a break in the series to prepare the players who participate in the Classic III.

If in questions of baseball there is a lack of information and mystery abounds, what can we expect on important issues like immigration reform or internet marketing. Cuba is a country of riddles and rumors. Learn to read between the lines. The press, rather than inform, misinforms. And those who must make decisions mock the media and citizens. It happens in everyday life. In politics and in baseball.

Photo: Logos of provincial baseball teams in 2010

Translated by: JT

September 15 2012