By IRINA ECHARRY, photos by CARIDAD
HAVANA TIMES, March 10 – Team Cuba thought they would be playing to mariachis, but it now turns out they’ll have to learn to jump like Skippy, the famous Australian kangaroo from the series that was re-run on Cuban television a few years ago.
In the parks and bus stops of Havana on Monday the talk around the World Baseball Classic circulated non-stop.
Noemi, a nurse, gave the results of Sunday night’s Mexico-Australia game to the few unaware passengers that she found in the bus, provoking comments of all types. She said she doesn’t go to the local baseball stadium for national games, but “when we’re playing other countries, I love to see Cuba win.”
The famous “Hot Corner” circle of baseball fans gather in Havana’s Central Park year round. However, the debate ringing in their ears these days is whether Cuba is prepared to match or do better than it did in the last Classic when it finished second to Japan in 2006.
Duany affirmed that South Africa was not a good “measuring stick”, meaning that Sunday’s 8-1 victory by the island’s ballplayers over the little-experienced South Africans did not really demonstrate the technical preparedness of the Cuban team.
Angel Mario, who escaped from his job “just for a moment,” doesn’t agree; to him, the South Africans batted enough runs against the “Americans” [in Arizona tune-up games] to clearly demonstrate that they are a quality team.
This mass gathering of fanatics is not composed of one group, and is much less homogeneous; in each cluster, different details regarding baseball are “discussed to death,” with sometimes the arguments taking the most unexpected turns.
If they mention players from other provinces, they can finish up talking about the lack of employment opportunities in these rural areas, or any other issue for that matter; but they soon return to the burning question: Does or doesn’t our country have a team capable of facing up to professional athletes… to the world famous players of the Major Leagues?
The gathering expands down the street as there swells debate, energy and the hope that Cuba continues to win.
According to Angel Mario, “In the last Classic we managed to finish second and people were upset. What do they want? We were matched up against the best in the world. It wouldn’t have been terrible if they had finished fourth.”
We’ll see on Tuesday night if our players can leap higher and better than the Australians. Baseball fever is in the street, and it’s contagious; we’ll see how high the temperature rises.
For on the scene coverage of World Baseball Classic II from Mexico, check out Peter C. Bjarkman’s Havana Times Diary.
Click on the thumbnails to see all the photos in this gallery