Cuba in the World Baseball Classic: Let's talk about baseball

Cuba in the World Baseball Classic: Let's talk about baseball
Fecha de publicación: 
16 March 2023
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When Cubans do not agree on something, whether in a discussion between two people or in a group, one of those debates where everyone speaks at the same time and only one seems to pay close attention, then you know it is time to stop debating and go away. As it is being said in diplomacy: “a solution has not been reached between the parties.” Then someone suggests: "let's talk better about baseball."

The truth is that talking about baseball in Cuba, even for those who do not have deep knowledge on the sports related to gloves, bats, and baseballs, is part of our folklore, culture; our so-called national sports trigger that impetus.

Since a few months ago, baseball returned to be the greatest Cuban passion. The 2023 World Baseball Classic has everyone out of bed since the first hours of the day. Baseball has once again become the main topic of conversation in Cuba, and not only here.

After years of frustrating results in baseball internationally, the National Commission of Baseball in Cuba made an official announcement: players playing foreign leagues would be called for the first time to represent Cuba in the team, including Major Leaguers in the U.S. And it triggered discussions, criticism, praise and raised the hopes of the public opinion in both Cuba and abroad.

Finally, the team was lined up, a task that must have been very difficult, in addition to the discretion necessary to achieve the goals and hence leave the doors open for future calls.

Taiwan welcomed the Cuban full squad for the first time in the first round of the tournament.

But the dream of almost vanished after the first two losses against the Netherlands and Italy. 

Criticism emerged again, some unfair, and the typical Cuban pessimism when something go south also took our mindset.

Luckily, very deep and reasonable analyzes also came up. These analyses addressed the issues of distance and jet lag, which athletes had to overcome. Some players actually got off the flight and went to training.

Then, the clutch game came, against Panama. And Cuban sluggers, helped by excellent pitching, achieved an important win 13-4. And our hopes were kept alive.

That day, March 10, the whole nation celebrated the win.

From then on, madness took over. Tournament rules, which appeared at the last minute, forced mathematicians to draw up new analyses, and gurus made riskier predictions. The religious omen was also used in Havana, Santiago, Brussels, Madrid, Miami, and beyond…Everything and everyone prayed for a team that, like the Phoenix bird, finally took off!

Everything helped, but the first thing was the subsequent win over Taiwan, 7-1. Then, our team had to wait for the other results and we ended up being leaders in Pool A. In the process, we avoided facing Japan in quarterfinals.

Australia remained as an unpredictable opponent. And the game was also very close.  Cubans won 4-3 against Kangaroos, another clutch game until the last out.  

The “Team Asere” was born for history. Names and surnames such as Despaigne, Moncada, Arruebaruena, Roennis, Drake, Mujica, Luis Robert, Roel, Moinelo, Raidel, Romero, Elián, Guibert, Onelkis, Ariel, Quintana, just to mention some of the most outstanding, have achieved what was expected of them.

It doesn't matter where players from Team Cuba play, major leaguers, Dominican Republic, Japan, or here in the National Series. They all speak the same language. They all reaffirm their happiness at having been able to join the new Cuba team, the one that has once again made our people dream big and made people talk about baseball again with joy and tears.

Semifinals will kick off in a few days. To play such stage, players need to cross the Atlantic again, and go, like the warriors they already are, to conquer every battle in Miami.

Let the new songs inspired by the “Team Asere” sound, let religion do its thing. Let the flags of Cuban identity and patriotic love rise above everything and everyone. Because this is not over...until it's over.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff


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