14ymedio, Havana, 20 March 20, 2023 — It was with long faces and forced smiles, that the return home of the members of the Cuban baseball team that lost this Sunday in Miami to the US team by 14-2 was “celebrated.” And not only did Team Asere suffer the defeat, but its catcher, Iván Prieto, deserted, as confirmed by US sources.
According to journalist Francys Romero, Prieto is “the first player to leave the Cuban national team in a World Baseball Classic.” The reporter for Pelota Cubana, Yordano Carmona, confirmed that the athlete “escaped from the hotel.” The baseball player “was not on the team that boarded the flight” to Havana and was reported as “taken off” the National Team due to abandonment,” Carmona said.
A native of Holguín, Prieto was part of the Cuban team for the Olympic Qualifier of the Americas in May 2021 and also in the Under-23 World Cup in September-October 2021.
Meanwhile, the members of the group landed at the José Martí International Airport in Havana at 9:20 in the morning and began a tour of the capital, which ended at the Coliseum of the Ciudad Deportiva with an official act. The celebration in the streets was obviously forced by the regime. On G Street, between 25 and 23, the crowd was made up of students. “An unfortunate show,” said a neighbor from the area.
Juliette Fernández, wife of independent journalist Boris González, said on her social networks that there was “a handful of people on the corner of 23 and G to receive Team Asere.” Among the attendees were “high school students… They couldn’t carry their backpacks; they had to leave them at school, to avoid desertions.”
For his part, Boris González exposed the “ridiculousness of Castroism” for mounting a “charade to receive the players. The authorities have closed schools and workplaces for people to attend, and the streets are empty. Only four spouses went to the reception for Team Asere.”
Despite an unmitigated defeat, in sporting and political terms, that brought applause from numerous exiles who took advantage of the event to protest against the regime, the ruling party didn’t skimp on compliments towards a team that against all odds managed to reach the semifinals and remain in an honorable fourth position. This is a victory after the many troubles that Cuban baseball has accumulated in the last decade. It’s now been 17 years since Cuba qualified for such a high position.
In any case, the mobilization, more than for the sport, focused on the political. That nothing unites more than a common enemy is well known by the Cuban leaders who have turned Team Asere into a long-suffering champion against the pressure of Miami’s exile.
Despite the efforts of the Cuban leaders to put a good face on the loss, the official photo of the players with the highest authorities (Díaz-Canel, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and the president of Parliament, Esteban Lazo Hernández) had an air of state funeral, which contrasted with the tweets of congratulations.
“Congratulations, admirable Team Asere. You won three times: when you formed a team, when you qualified first and when you played until the last out against a great team and against a hatred of the worst kind. You made history. Cuba is proud of you,” wrote Miguel Díaz-Canel himself shortly after the defeat.
The president of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), Osvaldo Vento Montiller, pointed out that the Cuban team had already won the great battle of this event, but he also recognized the “power” of the American team. “They were able to beat us by their quality and the advantage established by the game’s historic context.”
Randy Alondo Falcón, director of Cubadebate, warmed up hours before the reception with an article entitled Odio canijo [Weak Hate], in which he describes as “unique specimens on earth” the “anti-Cuban haters” who went to the stadium this Sunday, “united in that abominable combination of antagonism and malice.”
The spokesman for the regime directly pointed to Orlando Gutiérrez, of the Cuban Resistance Assembly, as the leader the attack, although without naming him and referring to him as a “veteran organizer of the anti-Cuban street demonstrations and a friend of the terrorists in front of Versailles [a popular restaurant for Miami exiles] to take his resentment out on the Cuban team.”
In the text he also spoke of the “not just a few Cubans” who attended the game to support Cuba in the face of “the true defeated (…), those with poor souls, the champions of hatred and lies, the inquisitors and party poopers, the eternal sowers of poison. They lost what they have never really had: a people,” he said.
While the Cuban authorities turned to a message of unity that they planned to keep alive until the holding of the elections on March 26, in Miami, the opponents who jumped onto the field this Sunday with protest posters, Danilo Maldonado El Sexto, Antonio Fernandez and Carlos Manuel Álvarez, spent the night at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami. All three were charged with the crime of trespass (invasion of private property).
Álvarez, who was released after the payment of bail, made it known through his social networks that he tried to “rescue the gesture of Colin Rand Kaepernick — who in protest against racism knelt during the NFL matches when listening to the US national anthem — in front of the national team bench, but I got mixed up.”
A policeman asked him why he did it and Álvarez replied: “Because I have friends who are political prisoners, and because all political prisoners are my friends, I added later, when I thought about it better. Freedom and justice for Cuba, we can’t let ourselves fall.”
#ClásicoMundialBéisbol Mientras las autoridades cubanas se vuelcan en un mensaje de unidad, en Miami los opositores que saltaron al terreno de juego para protestar, pasaron la noche en el Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center https://t.co/OgpwLW3g9P pic.twitter.com/GxsnxHQ2l9
— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) March 20, 2023
World Baseball Classic. While the Cuban authorities turned to a message of unity, in Miami the opponents who jumped onto the field to protest spent the night at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.