HAVANA TIMES, March 30 – I’m a faithful follower of Cuban baseball. Ever since I was little, going to the stadium has constituted one of my most enjoyable pleasures – with the music, the shouting before each home team hit, the songs mocking our opponents, and those ever-friendly disputes with the referees.
If I’d been a betting person, I would have went bankrupt during this year’s playoffs, because all the teams I faithfully defended were eliminated.
The first to be knocked out of the running was the team representing Guantanamo, my province. The “Indians of Guaso,” who after having an excellent first half of their campaign, began to gradually lose momentum after an end of the year rest. They wound up being mauled by the Tigers of Ciego de Avila in the first phase of the post-season.
The same thing happened with Santiago de Cuba – my favorite for life, behind Guantanamo, of course. They offered a tremendous battle that took them up to the sixth game, but finally their pitching —like throughout almost the entire season— failed to rise to the occasion.
Also losing out was Ciego de Avila to Villa Clara. And though I sympathize with the two teams in the country’s center, I would have preferred seeing the Avileños qualify for the grand finale.
In the western region my favorite one was the most winning and stable team throughout the entire season: Sancti Spiritus. But as my brother aptly put it: “Hey, the Sancti Spiritus Roosters don’t know how to play in a playoffs. That’s been demonstrated, and against Industriales even less.”
Notwithstanding, I was stubborn and bet on Gourriel’s guys, but there was no way. The Roosters were run into their coop with barely a fight. They made their rivals look bigger than life; the Industriales Lions showed their claws inside and outside of their cage.
Now everyone’s talking about the final matchup of course. I’m against Industriales, and not only because Martin’s Villa Clara Orangemen are the eastern champions —by geographical proximity— but also because the unsportsmanlike reaction of Industriales players in the quarrel against the Sancti Spiritus team in Game Two, which left a great deal to desire. Many Cubans felt highly disappointed by that image.
I wonder if the management of Cuban baseball would have applied the same disciplinary measures if the main figures involved in this unfortunate incident had been players from of another team not so dear to the national press and to sports broadcasters.
I hope that the two games set to unfold in the beautified Augusto Caesar Sandino Stadium in Santa Clara —that is if there is a seventh playoff game— see discipline prevail among spectators and players alike.
I also hope that Hector Rodriguez and Modesto Aguero (the narrators for Cuban TV) are just as emotionally moved when narrating a hit by Villa Clara’s Pestano as one by Industriales’ Malleta. My desire is for their comments to remain impartial.
Likewise, I hope the umpires don’t decide the games with horrendous decisions that tarnish the performance and trigger unnecessary arguments. In the long run these do the most harm to the leading figure of this great Cuban sports fiesta: the people.
So tonight, like almost all residents of this island, —and Wednesday if there’s a game seven— I’ll settle down in front of my television with great expectations, hoping that the best team wins – assuming of course that it will be Villa Clara. However Industriales will, like always, struggle to be the champion.