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The Cuban National League

Joe Kehoskie

  • Quality of Cuban Players
    Sigfredo Barros
  • Dream Rivalry
    Carlos Rodriguez Acosta
  • Formation of a Cuban athlete
    Alan Klein
  • Made or Born?
  • The American lack of appreciation for Cuban Baseball
    Jorge Nunez
  • On making of fans/athletes
  • On Government Sponsored Fan Groups


    Joe Kehoskie
    American Sports Agent

    • Quality of Cuban Players
      Cuba is a very close second in terms of overall talent. Whereas if you compare Japan in the major leagues, Japan will probably be about double A level compared to the big leagues. If you are comparing Cuba and the major leagues, if the major leagues are the American League East, Cuba is the America League West. There is not a very big difference in talent and unfortunately not a lot of people are appreciated for that. I am not sure if that is Latin bias where most scouts kind of think of Latin America is… you know the traditional sun lads and the young's crony kids… you know are really underdeveloped. May be mostly…because of the ban on going to Cuba to scout, most teams do not have a lot of exposure to baseball down there.

    Sigfredo Barros
    Cuban Baseball Historian
    • Dream Rivalry
      My title tomorrow, by all means please still read the paper, but my title tomorrow is "the dream championships: Industriales vs. Santiago." It's true that it's the dream matchup. The Industriales are from the capital. The whole world plays against the capital. I think it's like that in all the countries of the world. When Rome plays against Milan, everyone cheers against Rome. When Moscow plays against Leningrad, everyone cheers against Moscow. Whent the Yankees play everyone cheers against them. Right? Well it is true that the Industriales is the team that everyone loves to watch, they root for or against.

    Carlos Rodriguez Acosta
    Commissioner of Cuban Baseball
    • Formation of a Cuban athlete
      Pacheco, for example, begins in his neighborhood like any other child. Then in school he is organized into a little baseball team with other kids. And that team plays against another team from the same school. And there's a physical education instructor who is very important. His job is to introduce the kids to baseball and help them develop basic abilities. Pacheco shows a lot of interest in the sport and joins the school's baseball team.
            Then, when Pacheco is 10 years old the trainers recognize his talent and pass him on to the EIDE school. In the EIDE school Pacheco studies baseball from a technical, tactical, and theoretical point-of-view.
            He moves up from the 11-12 category to the 13-14 category, in a similar process, with new trainers of a higher level. And he keeps growing, until Pacheco becomes, at age 14, the second baseman of the Cuban National Team. That is the formation of an athlete in Cuba. In all sports. In addition, Pacheco does all of that without failing any classes. Because if he does fail, he can't go to any competitions. That's why our goal is not only to create good baseball players but also good citizens. Because an athlete's career is limited and then what does he do. Of course Pacheco is a player that transcends the sport aspect: He is an idol of the population, a man that is respected and admired by everyone.

    Alan Klein
    Sports Anthropologist
    • Made or Born?
      The idea that player has no sense of responsibility to anyone but himself and that his talent is God-given is ludicrous. It's an absolutely ludicrous concept. And a Cuban ballplayers' talent is certainly only in small part God-given, the rest of it its state-given . He was cultivated in a system and that system was an aspect of Fidel Castro's Cuba so to the degree that that player was developed and fostered, that's only in part biological. Secondly what the responsibility of any player is ... you can find Charles Barkley making this same claim, that ballplayers should not be role models. On the contrary, but most ballplayers know they're role models and they do have a sense of responsibility for someone other than themselves, most ballplayers developed that in some capacity or another. But the question is as long as you can maintain a healthy sense of identity that goes above and beyond the individual or the team, and there's no sense that this would be something that can only happen in a socialist system, it can also happen in other modified systems or even a capitalist system. for example take Mexico. Mexican ballplayers have an intense sense of nationalism, they understand that, and talk about living in the shadow of the giant, I mean my God Mexicans are extremely sensitive to slights by the U.S.. Mexican ballplayers are too. I talked about that in another book I wrote to get they understand that they are definite representations of a Mexican style of doing things, they understand this. At the same time as they're playing in the Mexican League which is an official sanctioned AAA league in baseball so you can have a sense of identity and responsibility beyond yourself and you can also be a product of a system that is above and beyond your own talent. That is an outrageous statement to to make. People do have a sense of responsibility, Cubans will not become instant prostitutes for some kind of form of capitalism. Many of them will remain in Cuba. But the strength of the league and the strength of the overall quality of the game is something that can be aided and abetted and needs to be if the larger enterprise of international or global baseball is ever brought to be considered a reality. Whether it's the U.S. controlled or not that's irrelevant , we are now poised to ask the question it will it be a complete disaster? Will we have a system that is nothing more than a set of prostitutes trying to earn as much as possible in as little time as possible with the depletion of the game, with everyone moving abroad or will there be some way to salvage a solid kind of game, to maintain a sound degree of Cuban nationalism , are we going to have Cubans in Miami poised to do a reverse migration back to Havana and return it to Batista? Or are weighed going to develop something that's still healthy? Can there be a middle ground? We don't know the answers to this but we can have responsible parties intervening one way or another. And if we do nothing then I guarantee I know what the outcome will be.
    • The American lack of appreciation for Cuban Baseball
      I think the Americans as whole and major league baseball doesn't really fully appreciate what the Cuban political system did for a game. I truly understand that. They do recognize that they were international stars for a period of time. I think they think of that now as obsolete, as antiquated, as quaint or whatever you want to call it. I think also that because it and understand or appreciate, part of that is cultural. Major-league teams have amazingly little understanding of the countries they go into, little by little they're gaining more of a sense of a need to know. I know of people in various teams who are now routinely encouraged take on language and to develop a sense of appreciation for Korea or Japan or Latin America but it's not like a full-blown effort. Some teams are very good at this and certainly in Latin America the Los Angeles Dodgers had an excellent program, they had a real sense of awareness, but overall there still is not that kind of appreciation. When it comes to Cuba, that's the big known ; Cuba has been an unknown except for their international success in formal competition, they're fairly unknown. part of that is the blockade , were not even allowed to go in there so they are the great unknown and as with every unknown quantity you fill in the blank. Who's filled in the blank for people in America? the Cubans in Miami. And so we get a very jaundiced view of what life was like in Cuba. It's not to say Miami Cubans don't have some degree of authority with which to speak, of course they do but it certainly been overly one-dimensional in the way it's been depicted . Everything coming out of Cuba as far as Cuban-Americans are concerned is essentially bankrupt, violent, oppressive, and one-dimensional. And of course that is not the case, it simply isn't the case and so the picture we have is one that is remarkably, even in a world where we're gaining better and better understanding of things foreign, it is remarkably one-sided and that has to be corrected and rectified in some way. So on a baseball level there needs to be a massive education project of what the role of traditional Cuban society as well as Castro's Cuba has been for elevating the game to such a level. And an acknowledgments that it was operating at a fairly high-level. there are a lot of Cuban ballplayers that can attest to that.

    Jorge Nunez
    Santiago Fan Leader
    • On making of fans/athletes
      Here the fans are not born, they're mad. Because that kid watches television and he sees what he likes, baseball or swimming, and in school he does those activities. Look I have a kid that is an olympic champion. I left him in EIDE. Here we have a school called EIDE. One time they called looking for me and I thought it had to with discipline or something, but no. It was a Soviet trainer who saw my son lifting weights and that he was very strong for a 12 year-old. So then when he turned 13 he already made his first trip to an international competition, in Mongolia, and won third place and then he went on winning and winning. He was world champion three times, olympic champion one time. He won five PanAmericans. Now he's 40, he retired 8 years ago and now he's working in other countries. He was in Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, and now in Argentina. So anyway, fans are made in the same way. They see Pacheco. You know Pacheco? Pacheco? The one who hits. A kid likes Pacheco and he grabs a bat and he say I'm Pacheco, I'm Kindelan, I'm Padilla…. And from there the Cuban mind is created. And Cuba is a world power in sports. Do you know that? Cuba is a world power in sports-in boxing number one, in baseball fans number one. Because we have great instruction and they give athletes scholarships and food and education and practice equipment. With good instructors and they grow. And it's not that they can play a sport well and then they go into the street, the government cares for them. They train and train. This is a beautiful thing because not everyone in the world has these opportunities. We know that the United States has great athletes, but Cuba also has great athletes.
    • On Government Sponsored Fan Groups
      A fan group is a community of people, friends that love sport. They get together to discuss, to talk about sports like baseball, football, volleyball, basketball. In reality their purpose is to support a team, to travel to other cities, other stadiums, other fields, that is what a fan group does. My group is called a 'Pena Deportiva.' A Pena Deportiva is something more serious then a fan group. Because a fan group can be anyone, but a Pena Deportiva can't be anyone. This Pena was formed on October 20, 1962 when a group of friends got together here. That was 37 years ago. In addition to me there's others that are still alive. We have approximately 80 members. We discuss sports and sponsor events. Sometimes we put a television in the park. Right now, we just showed the Santiago playoff games. Anyway, a member here has a membership card, with his name, address, place of employment or school, etc. And he comes and joins us. But not just anyone can be a member. Because you have to have certain qualities: you have to be a good person, hones, with good conduct. When there's a new member, he must be recommended by another member. That is very important. Not just anyone can join, because when we travel to other provinces we don't want to set a bad example, so our conduct is good. So seeing this, the government pays for our trips, the party supports us in this. No matter which province our team is playing. The government puts us up in a hotel, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and good living conditions, because that is very important. We go to good hotels with air conditioning, every person to his own bed, feather pillows…

     
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