The sports heroes. A personal story

Apropos the 4th World Baseball Classic.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the 4th World Baseball Classic was not due to the poor performance of the Cuban team, which was already on the horizon and which was no secret, but rather not having been able to achieve a special identification with any of its members, something that goes beyond talent.

We who love the sport know the meaning of those figures whose light shines for us in a way different from the rest. They are our individual heroes even if they are not necessarily for others. We felt each of their plays, we rejoiced with their successes and we suffered their failures in each game.


In my long life as a baseball fan I have had an extensive gallery of idols from my favourite teams. In the professional baseball’s AlmendaresI was seduced by Rocky Nelson’s strength, Tony Taylor’s elegance, Willy Miranda’s magic, Angel Scull’s liveliness or the poise of Miguel Cuéllar.


When the Cuban professional league disappeared and I could no longer see those baseball players on TV, or hear of their feats on radio broadcasts, then I would consult, in the sports pages of El Mundo the performance of Cubans in the Major Leagues. They were no longer only the members of the Almendares team, but also ZoiloVersalles, El Haitiano González, Leonardo Cárdenas, CamiloPascual, Pedro Ramos, Luis Tiant, Orestes Miñoso or Mike Fornieles. They were all my heroes.


The Major Leagues disappeared a while later from the Cuban press and my preferences changed. The first were Pedro Chávez, Jorge Trigoura, Urbano González,Ñico Jiménez, Manuel Hurtado, Rolando Pastor, Tony González, Alfredo Street, Ricardo Lazo; then it was Eulogio Osorio, Santiago Mederos, Arturo Linares, AgustínMarquetti, Armando Capiró, René Arocha, Orlando Hernández, Rey Vicente Anglada, Pedro Medina, Javier Méndez, Kendry Morales.


In that long list, all of them are from the capital, although not all of them were always members of Industriales, a team that most inflames my passion. But not because they had been in the Metropolitanos, Habana, Agropecuarios or Constructores teams did they stop being my heroes.


The conflict rather came when they joined the national team. One always wanted their players to be there. Of course, there was no room for all of them: there was a great deal of talent in the other provinces. And Manuel Alarcón, Modesto Verdura, Miguel Cuevas, Antonio Muñoz, Cheíto Rodríguez, José Antonio Huelga, Aquino Abreu, Félix Isasi, Wilfredo Sánchez, Silvio Montejo, Luis Giraldo Casanova, Rogelio García, Rigoberto Rosique, Omar Linaresweredisplacingours. However, we assumed it because it was fair.


Today everything seems very remote. As time went by a there was still a great deal of talent to make up the team, but there wasn’t always justice when drawing up the list; on very many occasions talent was not privileged, other parameters, other interests and commitments had emerged.


Thus, brilliant baseball players, with impressive numbers during the season, were left out of the national team. Julio GermánFernández, Lázaro Junco, RomelioMartínez, Javier Méndez, Orestes González, Carlos Yanes, Alexander Ramos, José ÁngelGarcía were among those who suffered the most.


Those acts of injustice undermined my empathy with the team. It’s a state of things that started growing during the 1980s, reached the most strength in the 1990s and took on other nuances in the new century.


With respect to the Cuba team, comprised for the 4th World Baseball Classic, it has been repeatedly said that the absence of talents on the island is so notorious that nothing better could be done. It is an affirmation that I do not share.


The constraints, the provincial narrow-mindedness that has come up in the latest teams,left out several players who could have made the difference: Juan Carlos Torriente, Starly Hernández, YordanisSamón, Julio Pablo Martínez. Precisely because talent is so scarce now those wrong decisions have a higher price, they are more expensive.


As to the heroes of the World Classic, who doubts that they were the Puerto Rican players who radiated joy, dedication, gallantry, courage, and saved the Latin Americans’ honour?


Just like the branches of a tree don’t lose their roots no matter how far they are from the trunk, our sports heroes continue being heroes, no matter how distant they may be. And they deserve being on the national team. On the other hand, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguín, Matanzas or Granma, everything is the same. Something was ignored again when making up the roster for the team going to the 4th Classic. (2017)


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