The Italian Company That Scammed the Cuban Baseball Federation Promises Free Balls

Since 2018, the Italian company TeamMate has been the official supplier of baseballs. (Periódico 26)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 August 2023 — The Italian company TeamMate offered compensation to the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) after sending it more than 2,000 defective balls during the last National Series. Its directors blamed the “error” on a factory in China where they make their products and promised the Cuban authorities to supply next season’s balls free of charge.

The television program Bola Viva explained that, due to a “confusion” of the Asian manufacturer, “included in the shipment were several boxes of the balls that are used for training,” the 150 and 120 models, instead of the 190 model that is used for professional games.

The collaborator of the Cuban Baseball portal, Yirsandy Rodríguez, said at the time that the use of TeamMate’s 120 ball in the Elite Baseball League favored pitchers over batters, since it is a lighter ball, and this compromised the results of the games in which it was used.

After several Cuban teams complained about the “irregular bounce” of the Chinese balls, the FCB began to complain to the company about the defective equipment and the delay in sending equipment. In October 2022, TeamMate had only sent half of the balls promised for that season, so the Federation had to buy balls from a supplier, whose name was not revealed, to get the Batos brand, a state company belonging to the Ministry of Industries.

According to figures offered by Bola Viva, since 2018, TeamMate has been the official supplier of baseballs to the Island, which so far has received 136,500 balls for training, the National Series and the Elite League, paying 12 dollars for each ball, a price that exceeds the value that these products have in the international market.

The Cuban Baseball Federation verified the poor quality of the TeamMate balls. (Facebook/Alejandro Díaz Álvarez)

Due to the inability of the Cuban industry to manufacture the equipment, the country has been dependent on the “sponsorship” of the Italian company for five years. Because of the “lack of leather for the ball, the lack of thread and the right glue,” they did not comply in 2018 with the delivery of the 100,000 balls (70,000 synthetic and 30,000 leather) promised annually to meet the needs of 16 teams of the National Series and 8 other categories in 547 sports centers, said the treasurer of FCB, Luis Daniel del Risco.

The Italian company is linked to Riccardo Fraccari, president of the World Confederation of Baseball and Softball (WBSC), who in 2021, according to columnist Jorge Morejón, was investigated for alleged money laundering. An article from the portal revealed that the sports federation of Panama also complained about the price of the balls provided by the Confederation.

The Panamanian prosecutor’s office, which investigated the case, concluded that “the money paid for the balls was much higher than the real market value,” reported the portal. As a result, “2,000,000 euros were seized at the WBSC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.” Later the penalty was revoked, and the amount was reduced to 258,000 euros. The Confederation was also accused of laundering money.

TeamMate remains the stone in the shoe for Cuba. Prior to the scam of the baseballs, the Italian company had already been criticized for the delay in the delivery of the uniforms for the Cuban teams that played in the Elite League.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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