Yusimi Rodriguez

HAVANA TIMES — Like many Cubans, over the past few weeks I’ve been following the Third World Baseball Classic being broadcast on Cuban television. Like many, I was sorry to see the elimination of our national team by Holland.

However the Classic showed me more than just spectacular plays, high quality teams … and shameful scenes like those made by the squads from Canada and Mexico.

The Classic also revealed to me how baseball has evolved since I started watching it in the ‘80s, when there were the aluminum bats and amateur teams – among which Cuba’s were dazzling.

But above all, I saw how the mentality has evolved, though I don’t know if I can say this is true with our journalists and our authorities (in a country where the first group are spokespersons for the second – or least where the former don’t contradict the latter).

Up until recently in Cuba, sacrificing the third or fourth batter with a bunt to advance a runner was almost sacrilegious. Yet these days I’ll hear our sportscasters assess that same play carried out by other teams and then complain that our teams lack good bunters. In modern baseball, everyone should be able to bunt, whoever’s turn it is at bat.

But more than this, the most striking thing for me has been listening to our sportscasters mentioning the names of Cuban players who now represent the colors of other countries (Brazil and Spain, in the Classic) without resorting to sarcastic comments or branding them as unpatriotic, traitors or sell outs.

If you can’t see the old stars of our national sport shining on foreign diamonds by watching the Tele Rebelde channel, Cubavision, Multivision, Canal Habana or Educational Channels 1 or 2, there’s always the option of “Educational Channel 3.”

Some people thought the impediment for us seeing major league baseball on television here (the same way we now see international soccer) was the presence of former Cuban players on those teams, something I don’t doubt.

But if you can’t see the old stars of our national sport shining on foreign diamonds by watching the Tele Rebelde channel, Cubavision, Multivision, Canal Habana or Educational Channels 1 or 2, there’s always the option of “Educational Channel 3.”

This station is what we also call “the antenna” – jerry-rigged satellite TV that many people continue to install despite it being illegal and heavily fined.

Now that the renting of discs with movies, concerts and other programs is one of the most prevalent businesses in the city, you can find disks with plays and even full games in which Cuban players are playing in foreign leagues.

Not only are we starting to note of the acceptance that it’s impossible to go against that current. There seems to be a growing perception that it’s better to swim along with it.

In the article “The Most Timely and Intelligent Investment We Can Make” (La mas oportuna e inteligente inversion que podemos hacer), published on the sports page of the Granma newspaper on Wednesday (March 13), Oscar Sanchez Serra made an extensive, profound and necessary analysis of the weaknesses of our national baseball system.

The Classic also revealed to me how baseball has evolved since I started watching it in the ‘80s, when there were the aluminum bats and amateur teams – among which Cuba’s were dazzling.

He pointed out not only our problems in the Classic, but also ones lying much deeper. Sanchez didn’t limit himself to discussing problems, in addition he offered solutions, including those that didn’t rule out Cuban athletes playing in professional leagues from other nations.

Sanchez reminds his readers that the social and economic model of the country is being updated, therefore he’s calling for that updating to also be applied in sports.

In recapping what we need to improve the quality of our baseball system, he mentioned lengthy tournaments in all categories, a competitive national series, linking local governments with the game, and the economic benefits that could be obtained, and also our “participation in competitions in other nations.”

How likely would it to have been to read something like this in the national press in the ‘80s, or just two decades ago – or even one? What journalist would have dared?

Are we witnessing the beginning of a 180-degree turn — or at least 120 degree shift — in sports in our country?


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