The grand finale of Cuban baseball was decided in game seven on Wednesday night, between two of the leagues most frequent contenders: Villa Clara and the Industriales.
That first squad, after a very stable regular season, made it to the finals as the favorite. The second one had difficulty even qualifying (in fourth place), but ended up the champion.
The Cuban media is determined to say this has been the best post-season we’ve ever had. I wouldn’t dare say that so categorically, but what I can assure you for a fact is that I’ve never seen such a well disputed final, that’s to say, one that was so evenly matched.
The ninth inning of the last game ended and the two teams were tied, which meant they had to go extra innings. Villa Clara had everything on its side, with a better relief pitcher than the Blues, but lacking the stuff that a 19-year-old left-hander used to suddenly snuff out the fuses on the orange artillery.
Everything was ready for Stayler Hernandez, the capital team’s right fielder, who drove the decisive hit with a long double between right and center fields.
When this happened it was 2:00 in the morning in Cuba, though I know a whole lot of people were still wide awake.
To tell you the truth though, I didn’t expect my team (the Industriales) to wind up the champs. So when the game ended I was completely calm, I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t show happiness or sadness.
In fact, I felt sorry for the Villa Clareños, because their team had spent something like eight years making it to the play offs, but hasn’t won the championship in 15. Well, like the old proverb says, referring to how this sport is so unpredictable: “The ball is round, but it comes in a square box.”
On Thursday morning I ran into a caravan of people who were going around celebrating, singing, and shouting with immense joy. As they passed they picked up more people, in this way the crowd was getting bigger as it went along. When the caravan went through the neighborhoods of Old Havana the crowd became truly massive. Everybody then went to the bus station to welcome home their champion team.
I believe that what happened suited the majority, because it was a political strategy for the capital to enjoy this degree of happiness in such bitter times. I don’t mean to say that a trap was set to benefit one team to the detriment of the other, but what’s certain is that the squad that won was the team they “wanted” to win.
That’s why this caravan, departing mysteriously from the headquarters of the Young Communist League, reminded me of the Roman Emperor Nero when he said, “To the people: give them bread and circus.”