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The best thing a baseball player can do to help the sport in Cuba is emigrate

In Cuba, athletes cannot prosper or progress in their athletic disciplines.

Luis Robert, one of the Major League Baseball players on the Cuban team.
Luis Robert, one of the Major League Baseball players on the Cuban team. MLB

A player who wishes to bolster the results of Cuban baseball at international tournaments should emigrate. Leaving, and as young as possible, should be considered by the regime as the most patriotic thing an athlete can do for what is still Cuba's national sport.

Cuba cannot meet its athletes' economic aspirations, let alone their aspirations for freedom, or those or of any of its citizens, nor can it provide them with the chance to improve in their respective disciplines.

The level of baseball in Cuba has hit rock bottom. What happened at the Gran Caracas Caribbean Series 2023 is just the latest evidence of this. It was not enough to create a selective tournament to bring together the best players from the National Series.

The 1st Elite League of Cuban Baseball —beyond all the organizational problems and the disappointments of its athletes regarding schedules, accommodations and food— exhibited more quality than the national championship, but was not enough for the Agricultores squad, without backups from the Cuban team, to put on a good show.

But even if manager Carlos Martí had brought a legion of backups to the Caribbean Series, the results probably would have been similar. At the Haarlem Tournament, the same manager, champion of the National Series, led a reinforced Granma team that turned in an even more disappointing performance than that of the Agricultores in Venezuela.

Are we telling the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) anything they don't know? Not at all. Those in charge of baseball in our country are fully aware that any team composed of players playing on Cuban soil has slim chances at tournament outside our borders.

Proof of this is the decision to invite, for the first time in history, players who emigrated and were hired abroad, even by Major League Baseball, to make up the national team playing in the the World Classic. And then there was the fit thrown over the U.S. government's delay in authorizing Major League Baseball players to join the Cuban team.

Because of that delay, the FCB went so far as to say that the US government was impeding its participating in the event, as if there were not enough players in Cuba… There are, and good ones, but on the Island they haven't been able to develop like those who play in the Majors have. Those in the MLB are now so important to the Cuban regime ? after having scorned them for decades ? that the announcement of the final roster that will represent Cuba in the Classic was postponed one day due to a consultation about a player who plays in the Big Leagues.

Team manager Armando Johnsom, admitted that he had "personally" called Major League Baseball players Yordan Alvarez and Jose Abreu on several occasions. If fans on the island know anything about the play of these Cuban players in the best baseball in the world, it is not thanks to state media, but to the Internet. As we know, neither of them responded to Johnson's call.

What if they had agreed to play for the national team? What would have happened if players like Cionel Pérez and Henry Urrutia had also decided to join the team? Fewer players, from those who play in Cuba, would have been able to go to the Classic and, as Major League pitcher Raisel Iglesias pointed out, "solve their problem and bring two or three little things over there (Cuba)."
For decades being on the Cuba team, with the implicit possibility of traveling - even if it was under strict control - and returning with some money, depended on strong performance in the National and Selective Series, while it existed, in addition to well-known political "reliability."

It was only fair that those events were attended by those who had played the best on the Island. But now the best Cuban players are not playing on the island.

When manager Carlos Martí decided to take to the Caribbean Series the Agricultores team that won the Elite League of Cuban Baseball, almost without a bench, many thought that justice had been done, since this rewarded the players who had “taken one for the team” by playing in the League, and deserved to go to Caracas. But justice does not win games, let alone baseball tournaments: Agricultores suffered six straight losses after their first and only win at the tournament.

The FCB knows that the best players are outside Cuba, and it is very likely that they will continue to turn to them in the future. And it will want them to keep migrating, without embarrassing them by defecting. That cannot be forgiven, and those who leave official teams during international events will not be invited … yet.

The regime would, of course, prefer those players to be hired out through their mediation (the FCB's, that is) and to be able to make a profit off them thanks to their rights over them. In their dreams. If they can at least win a few games because of them, that is better than nothing.

So, players who still play in Cuba: emigrate and develop,which will be the safest way to be called up to the national team And, of course, to prosper. In Cuba, this is not possible.

And coaches who want the island's baseball to improve should do the same thing. As the journalist Yordano Carmona recently told DIARIO DE CUBA, there is no point in athletes turning pro if on the island they continue to train like they did in the 70s and 80s.

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