Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

December 14, 1998, Cuba Free Press.

YOUNG CUBAN BASEBALL PLAYERS WILL HAVE TO WAIT By Iván García, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - In October, President Fidel Castro met with 32 U.S. editors. The question rose as to whether a Cuban baseball team could ever play in the Major Leagues. But the young talented Cubans want more: They want to be able to play, regularly, the best baseball of the world, without having to abandon their homeland.

In the Cuban sports world, the words pertaining to baseball that were uttered by the "Comandante Unico" were received with some degree of expectation. In the past seven years, 41 baseball players have abandoned the island with the expressed desire of being hired to play. Many experts were thus amazed when Castro condescended and accepted a gift from the most valued player of the American league, Samy Sosa's autographed baseball.

The Cuban players also were suprised when Castro spoke with moderation about the Cuban baseball players, who are often called traitors, and specially of "el Duque" Hernández, a key factor in this year's Yankees' victory.

Does this mean that a breakthrough in policy is imminent, allowing Cuban players to play in the U.S. soon? The answer is no. Castro is neither a follower of the "Sosamania" trend which spread over the American continent, nor has he any sympathy for the Cuban players who deserted to play as professionals. He simply expressed his idea that a Cuban team could play against similar team in the Major Leages. He did not imply that our players could do it as hired players and thereby enrich themselves with astronomic salaries.

STERILE SPORTS AND IDEAS

The Cuban government stands firm in its concept of "pure" sports and of playing only because of ideals. If more than 30 baseball players are allowed to play in Italy and Japan for hire it is because 70 percent of their salary is collected by the regime. They also play in minor leagues.

Sports Minister Humberto Rodrigues says, "This collaboration will slowly decrease, and by 1999 no Cuban baseball player will play permanently away from Cuba."

Therefore, the emphasis of the sports authority is that they play against hired teams in order to raise the national selection, and to prevent the players from signing professional contracts. But most of our young talent wants the opposite: To play in the United States, to draw six digit salaries and use their money without abandoning the land of their birth.

The sport is a spectacle which draws millions in profits. The stars, like baseball's Pedro Martinez, basketball's Michael Jordan or football's Rolando Nazario Lima earn a fortune, but they have to work full time. In professional sports, nationality is of little consequence: An African may play in Europe, a South American may play in Asia, or a Japanese may play in the United States. The objective is for the celebrities to play where they are best paid, and where they are able to provide the best spectacle.

In this sense, as in others, Cuba swims against the stream, and against the hopes of many of its players. Some of them have expressed to Cuba Free Press their desire of one day being a "big leaguer."

Lo cortés no quita lo valiente. (Politeness does not overrule valor.)

In spite of this out-of-phase policy, the state of Cuban baseball could not be better. The exit in 1997 of more than 60 stars has had no repercussion in the quality of the national classics. Today the competition is more even among the 18 teams that take part in the championship games.

Daily, talented young men stand out: Dany Miranda, Sergei Pérez, Michell Enríquez, Mael Rodríguez or Yasser Gómez are a few of a hundred who are gifted.

In the Little League, Pedro José Rodríguez Jr., Yoandris Euguellés and Obryan Peña are future prospects who, no doubt, in three or four years will be great stars in our base-ball.

Sixty-one-year-old trainer José Fernández says that between 100 and 150 Cuban base-ball players could play in the Triple A and Big Leagues if the government allowed our players to go to the U.S.

But please note: The United States is Public Enemy Number One of the Cuban Government. The absurd and capricious 'war' between both countries seems to have no end. The exit from the conflictive-maze is not visible. One side's stupidity is returned with stupidity from the other side. Blindness reaches both shores. Thus the young stars who may have much talent and a desire to assert themselves will have to wait till the political tide ebbs and sanity overcomes.

Only then the dreams of some: To earn millions, to play in Yankee Stadium and to spend vacations on the island of the palms with family and friends, will come true.

Iván García, Cuba Free Press.


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