14ymedio, Havana, 11 September 2023 — Cuban sports authorities have suspended the National Under-23 Baseball Series “due to the difficult economic situation facing the country,” according to Cuban Television journalist Pavel Otero on his Facebook account on Monday.
The reporter adds that this is the same reason why the national championship for 9-10 year olds, the final stage of Baseball 5, and the National Women’s Baseball Cup have not been developed this year, in addition to the Under-18 National Championship, which was left unfinished.
“This suspension of the annual competitive calendar doesn’t happen only with baseball,” he adds. “There are several sports that cannot complete their planned competitions in the year due to logistical and budget difficulties,” he added without providing more information about other competitions that will be affected by the severity of the crisis facing the Island.
Although the journalist does not mention it, the lack of players is added as a relevant problem, which is increasingly severe
In addition, although the journalist does not mention it, the lack of players is added as a relevant problem, which is increasingly severe. In mid-August, sports journalist Elsa Ramos wrote an opinion article in Escambray in which she admitted that the miserable salaries received by the greatest talents on the Island do not even serve to guarantee family sustenance, which is why athletes leave Cuba to seek luck in countries where they can earn fortunes for the same job.
In the text, the author already warned that the shortage of players had a direct impact on the Under-23 League and the youth, who had to mobilize to cover the losses and whose players did not have “sufficient and logical maturity.” This, together with the escapes within the category, meant that these tournaments could not even be held or were held badly, like the aforementioned Under-18, which could not finish.
There has been disturbing news recently. The young baseball player Jaider Miguel Suárez, only 14 years old, went to the Dominican Republic to test his skill. His departure was the confirmation of the drama that exists in the lower categories: of the 20 players who participated for Cuba in the Under-15 World Cup in 2022, 15 have emigrated, which means that those young promises will never compete for the country.
Last week, Yunior Ibarra, just 11 years old, joined the long list of athletes who leave the Island when he decided to stay in Canada after finishing his season in the Ontario Intercondata Semi-Professional League. From there, he moved to the Dominican Republic.
In 2021, one of the most spectacular escapes occurred precisely in this category, when 12 of the 24 called up for the Under-23 World Championship held in Aguascalientes, Mexico, left the Cuban national team. In January 2022, the official newspaper Trabajadores placed at 635 the number of players who had left the Island in the previous six years. Counting the whole decade, 862 athletes from all kinds of disciplines have left and, since 2012, 2,344 coaches have fled, 85 of them of a very high level.
“Yes, it is true that the current economic situation is depressing, but I consider that the lack of will of our political direction towards our national sport is evident”
“In this way it will be impossible for Cuba to enjoy good baseball again,” one user responds to Pavel Ortiz’s informative post. “Yes, it is true that the current economic situation is depressing, but I consider that the unwillingness of our political direction towards our national sport is evident; not everything is the fault of the everlasting blockade. The leaders of INDER (National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation) and especially those of baseball must come down to earth and stop the many banal exhibitions and so much empty talk,” he said.
Some commentators have emphasized the idea of professionalizing baseball and introducing private capital into it. “Sanctioned countries as well as Nicaragua have their professional league. We could consult with them and explore the new market that opens with the creation of the Saudi Arabian league. You have to get your act together; this is hitting rock bottom,” proposes another user.
The Professional Baseball League was born in Cuba on December 29, 1878, but the current model dates back to 1962, when Fidel Castro inaugurated the first National Baseball Series and announced “the triumph of the free ball over the slave.” “In order for the national sport to have a future, let’s hand it over to the private companies,” says a fan more than 60 years later.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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