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Amaury Pi-González

The Dominican Republic (Licey) beat Venezuela (Caracas) 3-0 Friday night in the title game of the Serie del Caribe, which this year took place in Venezuela.This is basically like the Yankees vs. Dodgers of the winter leagues. These are also the two countries, among all Latin American countries, with the most players in the major leagues. From the best to the worst; team Cuba was the biggest disappointment as they ended last with a 1-6 record in the tournament which ran from February 2 to 10. Team Cuba was a total disaster and in a way one of the biggest news coming out of this tournament, because of the great tradition of Cuban baseball.

After the terrible showing of the Cuban team, ending in last place among all the eight participants, the Cuban Government used the old lie excuse that they have been using for decades, Cuba blames the US blockade when in fact they trade with other countries like Canada, México, Spain, China, Brazil, the Netherlands, and others. Cuba’s government is the only to blame for their situation, the failure of a repressive system without individual freedom, shortages, and bad living conditions is responsible for the current situation in Cuba, and baseball a historic institution in the largest island in the Antilles has greatly suffered together with the whole country.

Today after over 60 years of a communist dictatorship, baseball on the largest island in the Caribbean has steadily declined. The first  Caribbean Baseball Series took place in Havana, Cuba, and ran annually from 1949 through 1960, with Cuba winning seven times. However, in 1961 Fidel Castro declared himself a Marxist-Leninist in a speech in which he said “I am a Marxist-Leninist and I will be for the rest of my life”, that same year the communist dictator canceled professional baseball in Cuba, followed was an exodus of established Cuban major league star players as Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso, and Octavio”Cookie” Rojas who left the island for good.

During the last 20 years, some of the best Cuban players have left (via defection) and are now playing in the major leagues.  More than 650 Cuban ballplayers have defected to the United States and elsewhere over the past six (6) years alone; this was reported by their own state-run media, which with the advent of social media still is very dishonest in what they report on baseball. In other affairs (aside from baseball) the Cuban government continues its communist propaganda. In 2022 a record number of Cuban players defected. Not all that leave had to risk their lives in homemade boats, balsas in Spanish, but some do it in other ways. For example, veteran Aledmys Díaz, now with the Oakland A’s stuffed his jersey into a small backpack and walked away from the Cuban National Team during a tournament in the Netherlands in 2012 and asked for political exile.

Cuban players will continue to defect until Cuba is free and can go back to the days when Cubans and other players from other countries could participate in the Cuban Professional Winter Leagues, which was considered one of the best in baseball, attracting even major league stars born in the United States, that went to Cuba to play during the winter, i.e. Brooks Robinson, Jim Bunning, Jackie Brandt, Bob Shaw, Hoyt Wilhelm and other American players went to Cuba during the winter, it was the highest level of winter baseball and the pay was the best, as some of those players have told me.

This 2023 we congratulate the Dominican Republic which continues its dominance in the Caribbean Baseball Series, winning its 22nd title.

Next in Baseball: After a six-year wait, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) has returned, and it is bigger than ever, with a total of 20 teams. The tournament with teams from North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe will have three new participants in England, Czech Republic, and Nicaragua.

The 2023 World Baseball Classic will be held in three countries, the United States, Japan and Taiwan. Games in the U.S. will be played in Miami at loan Depot Park and in Phoenix at Chase Field. Japan will host games at the Tokyo Dome and Taiwan will host games at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.

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