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Baseball; the best way to get to know the Cuban character

Without a doubt, baseball is Cuba's game. La pelota (the ball); as it is popularly called here, is an element of men's DNA in the island; so much so, that the Serie Nacional de Beisbol (National Baseball Championship Series) unleashes as much passion as the Premier League in England. When Industriales and Santiago de Cuba go head to head in their classic encounter, the passions are as volcanic as those that a Manchester United vs Liverpool match awaken in Brit football fans.

Baseball; the best way to get to know the Cuban character

When I was learning to walk, my parents gave me a rubber baseball to play with. Sometime later they gave me a plastic bat. Thus, my love and inclination towards baseball, Cuba's national game; was established in my earliest years.

As a curious anecdote, Liverpool served as host to the debut of the Amateur World Baseball Championships far back in 1938. Great Britain and the United States were the only two competitors in this five game series and Great Britain won the championship thanks to the contribution of quite a few Canadian players.

The sports history of the largest island in the Caribbean; a successful one internationally, is marked by the unmistakable glory of its baseball. Now, if you actually want to assert; "I've been to Cuba", experiencing its passion for baseball is a must. The partying in the stadium stands will add to an unforgettable experience, even if you know nothing about the game's rules, or find it slow and overly long.

La pelota is Cuba's number one sport and there's no reason whatsoever to believe that it will not continue to be so forever. Just a few stats will outline it better for you. In the previously mentioned Amateur World Baseball Championships, Cuba has walked asway with 25 winning titles while The United States of America; the country in which this sport was invented, has only won four. Furthermore, of the five possible Olympic baseball titles, three have been awarded to Cuba, while for the other two, the Cuban team was the runner-up.

Getting to the point

According to the current structure of the National Championship Series, the Cuban baseball champion is crowned the leader after beating 16 participating teams. The series calendar runs from September to April with a few stops along the way, due to international competition and end of year festivities. So if you happen to be around during these months, make the most of it; your fulfilment will be guaranteed, especially if you attend a classic game between Industriales and Santiago de Cuba.

In spite of the hot weather or the random cold fronts that tropical climates like Cuba's experience, the fans pack some of the major stadiums like Havana's Latinoamericano stadium, Matanzas' Victoria de Giron or Pinar del Rio's Capitan San Luis.

Box seats for foreign visitors are guaranteed at the price of 3 CUC; for day games as well as night ones. You can find each day's schedule at the official Internet site www.beisbolcubano.cu

Sports authorities are currently working on a project to create the Museum of Cuban Baseball which is expected to open soon at the Vedado Tennis Club, very close to Havana's beautiful Malecon sea wall. The project could be finished by the next time you find yourself in Cuba; and if that were the case, you might want to include it your sightseeing plans.

From a home rum to the written word

Like I said previously, I've played baseball ever since I can remember. Before I ever contemplated the idea of being a journalist, my sole dream was that of being a baseball star, a sports icon; and every one of my friends back then dreamed the same dream.

However, not all of us are born with the talent to shine in a baseball diamond, which is the actual shape of a baseball field; and thus, time slowly eroded my ambitious wish. My fantasies of being a player like Omar Linares; the greatest in post-revolutionary Cuban baseball, or Orestes Minnie Minoso; the big league icon of the Chicago White Sox, or Lou Gehrig; the New York Yankees Iron Horse, who my grandfather mentioned so frequently in our long baseball chats, were all left behind.

But the game still lives in my veins like an inextinguishable red blood cell. Baseball; a term that defines the determination of people who have lived and died fighting for independence, accompanies me wherever I go, attached to my soul with the magic of a Sunday goal in the cry of any London fan.

Michel Contreras

Michel Contreras

Chief Sportsman

Sports-struck for as long as he can remember, Michel invites you to meet champions, travel around...

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