There have indeed been many bizarre, improbable, almost credibility-stretching games played in the Cuban League over the past half-century of “revolutionary” baseball. And now this past week still another oddball event – again a walk-off home run of the most unlikely and unprecedented variety – has staked its claim for a spot atop the growing inventory of classic Cuban League baseball oddities.
It was a long-awaited baseball resurrection of sorts and it most appropriately came in an event Cuba has so long dominated. With a resounding five-game sweep of the field at this week’s 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Cuba not only regained a hefty measure of its badly tarnished reputation but did so in an impressive – almost flawless fashion.
It didn’t take long for the Cuban baseball forces to regain the momentum and fully atone for last summer’s embarrassing whitewashing on North American soil versus the USA Collegiate All-Stars. In a renewal five-game set the youth-studded Cuban squad swept to five straight wins.
The Cubans are back squarely in the major league limelight – at least if a somewhat tarnished mid-season All-Star Game extravaganza is any yardstick for center-stage attention.
In easily the most significant revelation yet spawned by the recently revised policy regarding Cuban ballplayer exchanges, the Cuban Baseball Federation revealed this past weekend that long-time national team star Frederich Cepeda will be performing this summer with the famed Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League.
In only the second campaign of a novel split-season structure, the reduced eight-team Cuban League is currently witnessing one of its most nail-biting and competitive pennant chases in recent memory.
Sad news from Havana this morning reports the unexpected and shockingly premature passing of veteran National Series lefthander and current Industriales pitching coach Luis Felipe Díaz.
One loss or even three straight losses does not a full season or a full tournament make. A single brilliant pitching performance or the sudden awakening of long dormant bats all-too-often ultimately saves the day in this beautiful sport so free of the noisome ticking of an intruding time piece.
Cuba’s historic return to the Caribbean Series is filled with almost as many doubts and plagued by almost as many unanswered questions as it is draped in hoopla and optimistic anticipation.
All signs now indicate that change (however slow and perhaps helter-skelter) is very much the defining feature of current National Series play. The first week of November marks the opening of a Cuban baseball season and all signs point to a landmark pennant campaign featuring a surprising (if perhaps unsettling) “new look” structure and also a large dose of tradition-busting aberrations.