The following is the script of the documentary film "Stealing Home."
INTV Joe Cubas As long as that dictatorship exists in Cuba, you’re going to continue to see defectors. You’re going to continue to see players who are willing to risk everything because they can no longer tolerate living under that system.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta It’s pillaging. They come to see what they can take. But you didn’t train them. You didn’t develop them. You didn’t spend one single cent on them. Now you want to come take them? I also want them for my team.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría If you take away from the Cuban league all of these great Cuban players, of course this is going to have an effect on the Cuban league. The league will be diminished.
INTV Alan Klein The future of Cuban baseball is frightening. The Cuban system prior to the period of defections is gone; the question we really have to look at is: what is it going to look like in 10 years? 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? Or are we going to develop something that’s still healthy?
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta (Commissioner of Cuban Baseball) The people have an incredible sense of ownership over Cuban baseball. It’s a symbol. I’d say like the flag, like the coat of arms, like the national anthem. Baseball has been a symbol of nationalism for more than 120 years. And therefore, when we’re organizing the championships, we have to be very aware that we’re not just dealing with some baseball game; but rather with the most important spectacle that exists in Cuba, the Cuban National Championship Series.
Narration 1 The 38th Cuban National Championship Series opened at Havana’s Latinoamericano stadium in March 1999. Santiago de Cuba and the Industriales of Havana competed for Cuba’s top baseball title. Traditionally the powerhouse of the Cuban National League, the Industriales have won more championships than any other team. But the defection of stars such as Orlando ‘El Duque’ Hernandez and Rey Ordonez have severely impacted the team. This is the first time since 1996 that the Industriales have reached the finals. Considered a rising force in Cuban baseball, Santiago de Cuba is playing in the finals for the second consecutive year. They have not lost any players to defections and are favored to win.
INTV Sigfredo Barros (Sports Journalist) I think in Cuba more than 3, maybe 4, million people are watching the game by TV. The whole country. Because the Industriales is the capital. The rest of the provinces are with Santiago, against the Capital. Like the Yankees in the States, like the Yankees. The Yankees with the Padres, with Atlanta, everybody’s with the Yankees or against the Yankees.
INTV Adrían Hernandez (Star Pitcher) For me the Industriales are the greatest. Not just because it’s my team. I’ve always loved the Industriales since I started playing baseball. I began blue and I think blue will be my color always. I hope I’ll never have to change teams. Besides that, the Industriales are the most loved team in the country. The Industriales are the best.
INTV Armando Luis Torres Torres (Industriales Fan Leader) In the section where I sit there are a lot of Santiago fans. A lot. But they know that they have to cheer for the Industriales because if they say “Santiago,” something like an Atomic bomb will fall on them.
Narration 2 In game one of the series, the Industriales defense was insurmountable, and a late game home run secured their victory. Baseball has always been a national passion for the Cuban people, but under Fidel Castro it has come to embody the ideals of the Cuban political system, with the defining slogan—Deporte: El Derecho del Pueblo, Sport: the Right of the People.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría (Cuban Baseball Historian) The greatest change made after the Revolution was to abolish professional baseball in Cuba. The Cuban League, which stretched back to the 19th century, closed down and the four traditional teams ceased to exist. So something new had to be built, and what was built was a new ‘amateur league.’
INTV Alan Klein (Sport Anthropologist)With Fidel what you had was the integration of a political system that eschewed professional status and revered amateur status—the classic line of a Communist country, in the sense of avoiding playing for pay and doing it for altruistic reasons. At its height, we saw a level of excellence in the game that was paralleled by a tremendous, intense identity between fans and teams.
Narration 3 The fans were the protagonists of this new amateur league. Games were virtually free, costing no more than a nickel and open for all to attend. In exchange for a national pastime that would be inclusive and accessible to all, players have had to suppress personal ambition in the interests of the greater good. They earn on average $20 per month, are restricted from playing professional baseball abroad, and are required to play exclusively for their home province.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría This means for instance that a player from say Santiago can only play for Santiago. Now if you have a regime where individual freedoms are so curtailed you can hold players to that kind of arrangement.
Narration 4 Recently, players have found this arrangement unacceptable. They have defied the Cuban government and defected, leaving their country to play professional baseball abroad.
INTV Alan Klein Every Cuban ballplayer now has defection in their head. Whether they are going to do it or not, that’s another story. But that’s now part of the process of being a ballplayer. So we’re living in a social environment where defections are there, it’s in the background.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría I have to say that I object to the term defection or defector. One defects from an army, one does not defect, but one leaves a country. And so to call the players who leave Cuba defectors is something I find unacceptable. These are players who chose freedom, and who chose to be able to put their talents up for the highest bidder, and reap the benefits of that talent and of the efforts they have made to hone them.
INTV Joe Cubas (Sports Agent) The very first defector or the very first defection occurred back in 1991. It was pitcher René Arocha who defected from the Cuban National Team on its trip back into Cuba. After Rene, in 1993, you saw Rey Ordonez who is now the shortstop for the Mets. You had Livan Hernandez defect in Monterey, Mexico. Then we had Rolando Arrojo defect prior to the ’96 Atlanta Olympics. And it’s been one after the other ever since to the point I think now we’ve got about 23, 24 defectors in the last 4 years alone.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría It began to happen in earnest after the collapse of the Soviet Union because the Cuban economy, which was in shambles already, took a further dip. And the players saw that their future was bleak. What was in all of this for them? What could they look forward to?
Narration 9 Second Baseman Jorge Díaz and Catcher Angel López defected from the Villa Clara team in 1998. Before their defection Villa Clara had competed in the National Championship finals 5 years in a row, winning 3 consecutive titles.
INTV Jorge Díaz (Cuban Baseball Defector) In Cuba we won three straight championships. And we didn’t get things, presents, incentives. They would treat you to a beer, they’d pay for a night at the hotel with your family, but nothing more. One would ask for things that one needed and they would deceive you. Time passed and it was always the same, the same. And people started to get upset. And they were saying ‘in the big leagues you get this, and this, and this.’ And Arrojo was the first to defect. Upon seeing his success, we’ve all started to make our own decisions. That’s the way life is. You understand?
INTV Angel López (Cuban Baseball Defector) The government doesn’t want there to be any stars in Cuba. They want everyone to be equal. They want Linares, who is the best player in Cuba to be the same as any ordinary man that you don’t know, even though he is a star in Cuba. They want him to have the same house, the same living conditions. They want everyone to have the same resources. But sometimes one needs things, things that the government doesn’t give you. So you say, ‘If I’m a great player here, why can’t I also play in the Major Leagues.’ Understand? You decide to leave the country to resolve your family’s financial problems.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta Sometimes people ask us about the defectors we’ve had, those that have abandoned Team Cuba and taken other roads. They ask us if these defections worry us and I say, ‘No, not in the least.” Nor, how should I put this, are we at all alarmed.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría If you take away from the Cuban league ‘El Duque’ Hernandez, Livan Hernandez, Ordonez, and all of these great Cuban players, of course this is going to have an effect on the league, the league will be diminished.
INTV Angel López The defection of players has greatly affected Cuban baseball because almost all of the defectors are quality players. Fans go to see good players and good teams. I’ve spoken with people in Cuba and they tell me that no one goes to our stadium anymore. We are four players, the four key players of that team, and the fans aren’t going to see baseball.
Narration 10 In game two of the 1999 Cuban National Championship Series, Santiago led 7 to 2 going into the 6th inning. But the Industriales staged a comeback scoring 7 runs in the last three innings. They won 9 to 8, gaining a 2 game lead in the series. Despite playing on their home field, Cuba’s favorite team did not fill Latinoamericano stadium. Since the era of defections, the Industriales have struggled to maintain attendance. Complaining of declining quality, many once devoted fans prefer not to make the trek out to the ballpark.
Narration 11 In March 1998, Angel López and Jorge Díaz left Cuba for the first time on a rickety boat with two other baseball players and a pitching coach. Nine days later, they were picked up by a Bahamian fishing vessel and detained on Ragged Island. Eventually they were taken to the Carmichael Detention Center, in Nassau, Bahamas.
INTV Orlando Chinea (Pitching Coach) The five of us who dedicate ourselves exclusively to baseball decided to leave Cuba. I am a pitching coach. This is Angel López, who was catcher for Team Cuba. This is Jorge Díaz, who was selected for the National Team also. I know, it is not just a wish, but I know, as a trainer and a specialist, that they will all do exceptionally well in professional baseball. They’re going to do well because they’re going to play without stress. They’re going to play in freedom, without any worries.
INTV Joe Cubas I remember vividly. I was in Tampa during spring training with El Duque when I received the word and immediately got on an airplane and flew to Miami and then kept on going to the Bahamas. They were there for what I believe was a little over a week. In their case things were a lot more difficult, because as we know the Bahamian government has an extradition policy with Cuba. Cuba stepped forward and said, ‘we have a repatriation treaty with the Bahamian government and you need to repatriate these five players back to Cuba. If you don’t then you’re going to have millions of Cubans washing ashore in the Bahamas.’
INTV Jorge Díaz When we arrived in the Bahamas there were many scouts, many agents: Joe Cubas, Dominguez, many. We arrived and Joe Cubas said to us, ‘Don’t go with anyone, I’m going to represent you guys.’ And we did, we believed him. He took our information and told us he would get us out of there. He gave us clothes, food, he was very good to us. And we’d call him at home everyday to tell him to hurry because people were saying that there was going to be a deportation. And he would tell us, ‘Don’t worry. You guys won’t go back to Cuba, you won’t go back there.’ And we’d say, ‘But Joe Cubas, you have to move it.’ And he would say, ‘I’ve already filed your papers for entry into Costa Rica.’ We read them and signed. But at the end of the movie, everything was a lie: there were no papers, no visas, nothing. We were sent back to Cuba.
CNN News Reporter: There were no happy faces among the 45 Cuban rafters sent home by the Bahamas this week. Among them, three baseball players and a pitching coach—the first sportsmen ever to be repatriated to Cuba. Pitching coach Orlando Chinea fled Cuba in March after authorities barred him from baseball for life. Now that he’s back he’s not optimistic. “Maybe they’ll let me work in something unimportant,” he says. “But we will never have the opportunity to be in our league again, at least not in Cuba. That’s why we wanted to go to another country. And the truth is we’ve turned into political dissidents of sports, even without wanting to.” Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
INTV Angel López When we returned everything was difficult. In Cuba we were public figures, everyone knew us. But upon our return no one wanted to have anything to do with us. Well, not no one, but the people who worked in the government, who knew us, they all turned their backs. They wanted to forget that we existed. But ordinary people in the streets were sad because we hadn’t achieved what we wanted. They would tell us: you have to try again. You have to get what you want. And that’s what we did.
Narration 12 The Industriales led the series 2 games to 0 until Santiago turned the tide on their home field in games 3 and 4. In game three Santiago’s defense held the Industriales to 3 hits, and they went on to win 2 to 1. In game four, power-hitting second baseman and Team Captain Antonio Pacheco ignited his team’s offense with a 4th inning home run. Pacheco’s home run was the 1st of 7 runs scored by Santiago. They would go on to win decidedly and tie the series.
INTV Antonio Pacheco (Santiago Team Captain) I began in 1977 in the Sports Initiation School in the city of Santiago de Cuba. That same year I played in the Little League World Series in Mexico. In 1982, I made the Cuban Junior National Team in Venezuela. And one year later, in 1983, I made the National Team, Team Cuba, the big team, the older team, and I’ve been playing with them ever since.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta 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.
INTV Antonio Pacheco I think I represent to the fans the athlete formed by my country; the athlete that all Cubans want to see; the athlete who is a role model for all the Cubans who put their trust in me; the athlete who will never leave his people; the athlete who will never betray them; the athlete who will defend his flag with love and dignity. I think that is where the fan’s admiration and respect come from.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta Our training process demands above all else a developed concept of dignity, of ethics, a developed understanding of who we are and what we represent. That is very important. So our athletes are very conscious, when they play on the municipal level, of what they defend, when they play on the provincial level of what they defend, and when they play internationally of what they defend, and who they represent, and why they’ve become great. They’re great because they’ve benefited from a free education system, because sport is the right of the people, because they don’t rely on sport to make a living, because health care is free, because it costs them nothing, because they are given everything. You add all of this up and the ones who win are ours.
INTV Antonio Pacheco Every person is different. Every person has his principles, his dignity, his love for his people, for what made him ,and for what he cannot abandon. I’ll give you an example and I say it with all of my heart: Cuba for me is like my mother, and I will never abandon my mother. And you, could you ever abandon your mother?
INTV Sigfredo Barros What you must understand is that we cannot put one million dollars into the pocket of a baseball player. We just do not have the money for that. It is sad, I know. But I think they have stolen our baseball players. Because what is important to say is that Orlando, Ordonez, Livan, Arrojo, all of them were trained here in Cuba, their coaches were Cuban, and their successes are in part the successes of Cuban baseball and Cuban trainers. No one in the United States taught Arrojo to throw a sinker; he was taught that here in Cuba. Or the slider to Orlando, or Livan’s 93-mph fastball, or to field balls like Ordonez does. We taught them those things here. That they went there looking for money, well, what can we do to them. But it is the Cuban school of baseball that taught them.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría I don’t think the Cuban player owes anything to the system. It is also his talent. It is also his effort. It is also his discipline. It takes a lot of discipline to become great at anything, no matter how good you are. So just because the system ‘provided’ these opportunities, doesn’t mean the system owns that player. I think that slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1886.
INTV Joe Cubas The Cuban government did not give these players the talent. Only god gave these players the talent. The Cuban government doesn’t give these players the resources to develop that talent. You have a player for example who has to go to the ballpark every afternoon on a bicycle. Some of the defectors that are playing today at the Major League level, these are players that had to go to the ballpark on a bicycle, these are players that had to go up seven flights of stairs with that bicycle. That was their only means of transportation. So for the commissioner of Cuban baseball to say we train them and the Americans steal them from us, is a perfect example of the communist, narrow mentality that exists in Cuba today.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría I think it’s a question also of envy. I mean these are bureaucrats whose market value is negligible to be delicate. I mean how much would the commissioner of Cuban baseball be worth on the open market, in any open market. Not just playing baseball, but in general terms.
Cuban TV commercial Suppose that you live here, here, or here. Suppose that one of these days you are presented with a complaint, in English, backed by a resolution, in English, written by an American congress that has analyzed the situation, in English. And it says that almost everything we enjoy today, housing, schools, factories, hospitals, the land, is the property of certain people, who imagine, in English, that we’re going to obey. What an imagination! Don’t you think they suppose too much?
Narration 13 Despite Antonio Pacheco’s best efforts, game five went to the Industriales. Star pitcher Adrian ‘Duquesito’ Hernandez shut down Santiago with 11 strikeouts. He was named M.V.P. of the game.
INTV Joe Kehoskie (Sports Agent)When you look at the international baseball scene, Cuba is a very close second in terms of overall talent. Whereas if you compare Japan to the Major Leagues, Japan would probably be AA level compared to the Big Leagues. If you’re comparing Cuba to the Major Leagues, I would say that if the Major Leagues are the American League East, Cuba is the American League West.
Narration 14 In August 1998, Angel López and Jorge Díaz defected for a second time. But they would have to wait more than a year before making it to the Dominican Republic for their first real Major League try-out.
INTV Joe Kehoskie I was following Angel López and Jorge Díaz when they were in the Bahamas. I was actually in Florida at the time. I remember getting off an airplane in the Fort Lauderdale airport and seeing a headline on the front page of the paper down there that the Cuban players were lost at sea. So I followed the story for a week thinking, you know, I was never going to be involved in the market. And then obviously I realized two months later that they had been sent back to Cuba. It was kind of a shock to find out that they had defected again and not only that but they were interested in me acting as their agent. This week we had scouts in from 26 Major League teams for a try-out here in Santiago, at Estadio Cibao. It was essentially a 2-day try-out: 1st day they were just running 60-yard dashes, hitting batting practice, infield-outfield practice, standard baseball workout anywhere in the world, the 2nd day we played games. Obviously, the main feature was mostly the Cuban guys. It was their first real introduction to baseball scouts. There were also about 30 kids from the Dominican Republic, and we had 1 kid come over from Guatemala. So it was kind of a multi-national, international workout. Cuban players to me leave, it’s obviously a dual opportunity. For some it’s more money than opportunity. For others it’s more opportunity than money. They live and die baseball in Cuba and these guys being professional players unlike any place in the world, I think they want an opportunity to play in the best league on earth which is obviously the American Major Leagues. Secondarily, the money is obviously much better. And a lot of these players, my players for example, Angel López and Jorge Díaz, they were suspended from baseball for speaking on the telephone with Rolando Arrojo who previously defected from Cuba.
INTV Angel López In Cuba you can’t wear anything that says something like New York Yankees—nothing professional, only amateur. That’s a rule they have in Cuba. And you can’t talk to player that has left the country. And I spoke to Arrojo at that moment. So when I got back to Cuba, they told me that they had intercepted my call. That I had spoken to Arrojo from Mexico and that I would be suspended from baseball for life.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría The government took harsh measures to prevent people, other players, from leaving the country. And since there is preventative punishment in Cuba, and preventative detention by the way, quite a few players, including El Duque at the time who was still in Cuba, were suspended. They could not play in Cuba because it was suspected that they were about to leave Cuba.
INTV Kehoskie Fidel Castro essentially forced these guys to leave Cuba. It wasn’t really even a choice. It was either stay at home and be handed a broom and say have a nice life or they could leave Cuba and continue playing baseball.
INTV Lopez I hadn’t thought about leaving Cuba at that time because before leaving for the Bahamas my son hadn’t even turned one yet. And I had thought a lot about that and things weren’t so bad. I was living in an okay house. I was on the Cuban National Team. Things weren’t so bad. I thought that I could keep moving forward.
INTV Kehoskie Jorge Díaz and Angel López are two very good players, two very mature players—not only on the field but off. They strike me as guys that are going to move to the United States and be very very successful. They’ve been through things in their lives that most people can’t even imagine between being suspended from baseball, labeled a traitor at home after defecting, and being sent back home, and then leaving a second time and going through this 12, 14 month process. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re both in the Major Leagues within two months of the 2000 season.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta At every game where the Cuban National Team shows up, there are at least ten scouts. What does this mean? A scout is a professional that does his job and most are very respectful. But there are those who are not scouts. They’re businessmen. And then there are those who use this phenomenon of the defection of Cuban athletes as a way to discredit the Cuban Revolutionary process. It’s used as a way of undermining us. I remember in the beginning they would park a convertible with two blondes and make offers to our athletes. All in an effort to discredit our revolution. Then someone realized that besides achieving this he could make himself a millionaire. Because all of our athletes are of a high caliber and are like blank checks to the delivering agents.
INTV Cubas I think that anytime that the Cuban government labels me as a vulture, and they have in the past, labels me as a flesh peddler, simply because I am a vehicle that is provided to these individuals to obtain freedom. I mean I feel honored to be in that position. So, the more attacks I receive from the Cuban government the better they make me feel.
INTV Kehoskie Joe Cubas used to have a monopoly on the Cuban market. He was the main guy when all of these Cubans started to defect Joe Cubas was the guy that got first involved. He’s had some problems and obviously when people started to see the dollars involved in the market other people have gotten involved.
INTV Cubas Living in South Florida, living in Miami, the Cuban exile community of the world and having Cuban parents who had to emigrate because of Castro. I obviously have the education of that anti-Castro because I’ve seen first hand my family suffer. I think that in ’91 when Arocha defected it opened up my eyes with regards to baseball in Cuba and the ability and the talent-level that was there trapped behind what we call barbed-wires.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta If something is important in the human realm, it is that a human being never forgets where he came from. I am still the same campesino, who was born in the country, to a poor family. I have been able to become director of baseball and more importantly, a professional, only because there was revolution. Otherwise it would have been impossible. My family could’ve never sent a son to study at the University or even to elementary school. We were born in a house with dirt floors, a straw roof, and bamboo walls. I don’t think that any child in Cuba is born in those conditions today.
Narration 15 On the day before game six of the Cuban National Championship Series, members of Santiago’s fan club boarded a bus headed for Havana. The 18-hour bus trip would take them from the birthplace of the revolution in the east to the capital city in the west. All travel fees, including food and accommodations, were paid for by the Cuban government as part of a very publicized state commitment to promoting spectatorship across the island.
INTV Barros Baseball is for the fans. Because it is a spectacle. It is like a theater piece, it’s like a movie—a movie without audience is nothing. It’s not worth anything. Baseball is like that. It’s a spectacle and it’s for the fans.
Narration 16 Facing elimination in game six, Santiago struck early. A first inning homerun gave them a 1 to nothing lead. The game settled into a defensive battle. The Industriales held Santiago scoreless for 5 innings, giving their fans hope.
INTV Armando I have been the luckiest person in the country. Without being anyone, just a simple dry cleaner, I have spoken with the commander-in-chief seven times. And in 1982, he gave me a car in recognition of what I have done and still do for Cuban sports.
Narration 17 The Industriales finally threatened to score in the bottom of the 9th inning. With no outs and a man on first, the winning run stepped to the plate. Santiago turned a double play, dashing the Industriales hope for victory. They won 1 to nothing, forcing a game seven.
INTV Echevarria I am very much afraid that if a change takes place in Cuba and the Major Leagues descend upon the island to exploit the talent that is there, that something like what is happening in the Dominican Republic, but on a much larger scale, will take place in Cuba.
Narration 18 With the advent of free agency in the mid-70s, Major League teams turned to countries like the Dominican Republic as sources of cheap talent. Teams opened special baseball academies to train young Dominican prospects for a future in the U.S. Major Leagues. But this academy system had a devastating effect on the once autonomous structure of Dominican baseball.
INTV Klein As the presence of these Major League baseball deepened. As they opened up academies for the production and the cultivation of Dominican ballplayers before they sent them over to the United States, you had reverberations occurring all up and down the amateur levels of Dominican baseball. Typically all Dominican professionals came from the amateur leagues. Once the academies were present on the island, once there was wide-spread scouting going on almost all over the island, young boys who were 14 and 15 and who would have made their way up through the ranks of Amateur baseball in the Dominican Republic, avoided that, they circumvented it and they moved directly to the academies.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría I take a dim view with what the Major Leagues are doing in the Dominican Republic with these so-called baseball academies, where children are being signed at a very early age and not being cared for. Most of them are providing the context for the stars to emerge.
INTV Kehoskie Unfortunately here in the Dominican a lot of the time kids just quit school at 10, 11, 12 and play baseball full-time. It’s great, it’s great for the kids that make it because they become superstars and get millions of dollars in the big leagues. But for 98 kids out of 100 it results in a kid who is 18, 19 with no education. So it is, it’s kind of a win-lose here in the Dominican. It’s probably more win-lose here in the Dominican than it is in Cuba. In Cuba obviously the lifestyle is not going to be there for you like it could be here, but at the same time you do at least have a basic education and the government is going to provide certain things for you.
INTV Carlos Rodriguez Acosta There are many countries that develop baseball players. But once that boy turns 16 and can throw 85 mph, he is signed. They take him off to a team, most often one in the United States. That kid doesn’t have the opportunity to develop in his own country or even to represent his own country. Because I am certain that if the Dominican Republic could count on all of the players from the Dominican Republic it would have one of the best baseball leagues in the world.
INTV Klein The presence of these Major League ball clubs ultimately resulted in a decline in the quality of the amateur leagues and in the overall decline in health of these leagues. And along with that comes a decline in fan interest. That’s a big problem. Because everybody who knows anything about Dominican baseball knows that they derive a certain amount of pride from that. It fuels a certain amount of nationalism. Most Dominicans understand that their economy is a third world economy. They understand the fact that their demographics are among the worst in Latin America. So that kind of loss of esteem is counterbalanced by the pride you get out of having superstars in baseball. Even though it’s still an exciting game to watch, the fact that their heroes are no longer there is definitely noticeable.
Narration 19 As more and more Cuban players leave the Cuban National League, many consider its future: How would a change in Cuba’s political system affect Cuban baseball? Would it resemble baseball in the Dominican Republic?
INTV Klein In the case of the Dominican Republic, it failed. I mean I truly see it as a failure. It is a feeder system pure and simple, not much else, compared to what it used to be. But Cuba is not cut-and-dry. It could become a disastrous failure. If you allow the kind of brigand agent, the kind of swash-buckling agent to go into Cuba and do what he will in any way possible, which is one of the possible scenarios of the future, just letting people go in there and willy-nilly sign whoever they want for whatever they can get, that could be the end of the game in any capacity.
INTV Diaz I miss Cuba because it’s my country, and I miss my family. But my family understands that to improve my life, I have to keep looking ahead to future. And I don’t regret the things that I have done. On the contrary, I only wish that all the Cubans in Cuba thought the same as we do. We’re not happy yet because we haven’t seen the fruit of our labor. For example to be on a team in the United States. But we’re seeing that we’re free, in a free country, and the treatment is good. You have the right to buy yourself an apple, a Coca-Cola, etc., etc.
INTV Lopez If this doesn’t work, there are other countries, other countries where they play baseball, Mexico, Venezuela, and here in the Dominican Republic. Sometimes not everyone can make it, but it’s what I’ve done my whole life. I don’t really know how to do anything but play baseball, sincerely. I’ve only played baseball, baseball, baseball. In Cuba you play baseball all year around. Or, I’ll have to learn how to do something else I guess.
Narration 20 One month after the tryout, Jorge Díaz signed with the Texas Rangers. He plays for their single-A farm team in Port Charlotte, Florida. Due to a knee injury, he missed most of the 2000 season. Angel López has not yet signed with a Major League team. He remains in the Dominican Republic.
INTV Cubas I think that when you look at all of the numbers and all of the defectors, you’re going to realize that a very small minority of them have been able to play at the Major League level and ‘have been able to obtain richness.’ So therefore the majority of them are still at the Minor League level, are still earning close to minimum wage at the Minor League level. But most of them have said the same thing, ‘I would rather work in a factory, earning minimum wage in the States, than be a top baseball player in Cuba.’
Narration 21 After a disappointing loss in game six, the Industriales put up little resistance in game 7. Starting pitcher Adrían Hernandez gave up 3 runs in the first inning alone and was pulled from the game. Santiago went on to win in a 9 to 0 blowout, becoming Cuba’s 1999 National League Champions.
INTV Roberto González Echevarría Baseball players in Cuba today suffer from an epic deficiency because there are no epic heroes without large audiences. And perhaps the Cuban players have such an audience in Cuba, but even the Cuban audience knows that it is limited. Because as isolated as Cuba is or pretends to be, they know, everybody knows, that they are not the Major Leagues.
INTV Barros Just because we don’t play in the United States doesn’t mean we don’t exist. As far as I know the United States is part of the world but it isn’t the whole world. We can NOT play in the United States and still exist. And as you were saying, there are not only baseball players, there are trainers, and umpires, historians, and journalists. Maybe we’re not as good as I don’t know who, but we’re not so bad either. We must be somewhere in the middle.
INTV Klein In a 1960’s way it’s sort of unfair to think of the best Cuban talent migrating abroad, but sports stars are migrating abroad everywhere in world. They’re going to where the best money is being made and where the best level of the game is being played. Global boundaries are simply disappearing. That’s just a fundamental fact of life. And Cubans who love their Industriales players will now love them as they play for St. Louis or L.A. and then, maybe later on, in some other capacity.
Narration 22 Less than one year after the 38th Cuban National Championship Series, star pitcher Adrían Hernandez defected from Cuba and signed a $4.4 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees. During the 2000 season, Cuba lost 11 players to defections, Santiago won the playoffs for the second consecutive year, and the Industriales finished a disappointing 4th place.