14ymedio, Havana, 16 March 2023 — Cuba’s baseball players have already arrived in Miami. Since the 4-3 victory over Australia, everything has been “joyful.” The “dancing” spread to the clubhouse, said manager Armando Mandy Johnson. On the charter flight from Japan to Miami, the “shouting” never stopped.
The team will play at the headquarters that the Díaz-Canel Government has tried to avoid since the birth of the World Baseball Classic, according to Diario Libre journalist Nathanael Pérez Neró. “To the point that he asked to play the first rounds in Asia.”
On the streets, there is indignation about the cost of tickets. Tickets are sold at up to $1,229, and the cheapest price is $289, very high for a Cuban who earns on average between $500 and $700 a week.
Some workers of Cuban origin wanted to see the Cuban baseball team but “were appalled at the prices of the seats,” says José, an Island national who emigrated in search of better living conditions for his family and now works in a restaurant. “None of us had any intention of protesting or anything like that.”
José mentioned that “the restaurant managers were upset” with the Cuban team in Miami. The main topic of discussion was the demonstrations against Team Asere, the team reinforced with Major League players, which represents the Regime.
— JIT Deporte Cubano (@jit_digital) March 15, 2023
The Cuban team is in Miami, where thousands of Cubans emigrated after Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. The largest group of exiles opposed to the Regime is also concentrated in this city and it is where, according to the 2019 American Community Survey, 999,602 inhabitants are of Cuban origin, which represents 36.2% of the total of 2,761,581 people.
“At least it will be an interesting spectacle to see Cuba, because a team from the Island has never played a tournament of such magnitude,” wrote Jorge Ebro, a journalist from Matanzas with El Nuevo Herald. “Some insist that this group has nothing to do with politics.”
A constant concern for the Regime has been the desertions of athletes; however, even if there were some in this group of players, they would be few. Several of these baseball players do not have ties with the Cuban National Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) because they are independent players. In addition, those who play in the Japanese league, such as Liván Moinelo, Yariel Rodríguez, Raidel Martínez, Yurisbel Gracial, Ariel Martínez and Alfredo Despaigne, must have the permission of their clubs in order to be hired by a Major League team.
Another of the fears is the controversy that has occurred on social networks, which has called for a demonstration against the national baseball team.
Cuba’s next game will be on Sunday at LoanDepot Park, home of the Marlins, located in Little Havana. The team will have to deal with an environment of protests.
As if the sports panorama were not already controversial, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel finished politicizing it on his social networks. “March 15, such a special day. Cuba had to win,” he posted on his Twitter account after the triumph over Australia.
Díaz-Canel counted on the participation of Lis Cuesta, his wife, who posted an image on Twitter with the caption: “Babalaos get going!!! Water and eggshells on the ground.” [An appeal to the priests of Santería and an offering for positive energy]
— Yordano Carmona (@YordiMLB) March 16, 2023
This politicization led former spy Gerardo Hernández to quote José Martí when referring to Team Asere: “Patriotism purifies and exalts men.”
The team of coaches took a day off on Thursday. According to the official media Jit, “They will spend the day completing their analyses in relation to the game between the United States and Venezuela on Sunday. The winner will face Cuba in the next round.”
The preparation game prior to the semifinal was ruled out, and in the next few hours the starter will be made official for Team Asere, the first chance for Cuba since 2006, when it celebrated a run-up in the first edition of these battles.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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