From Robert Siegel and Eyder Peralta at NPR’s “All Things Considered” on March 24, 2015, with SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman:
It has already been a messy game at Havana’s Latin American Stadium, the premier baseball stadium in Cuba. The home team, the Industriales, has given up five runs in the first inning; a shortstop fumbled a ball, an outfielder failed to hustle and an easy out became an extra-base hit.
The home crowd isn’t deterred. The vuvuzelas, those ear-splitting plastic horns, still swell when an opposing batter reaches two strikes.
Ismael Sené, a former intelligence agent-turned-baseball historian who was in the stands cheering the Industriales, isn’t too worried. The opposing team, Alazanes de Granma, has been playing terribly lately as Cuba’s winter league season winds down.
In large part, Sené says, Granma was struggling because some of its best pitchers had defected recently to the U.S. They’d left their team toward the end of the season to try their luck in the major leagues.
Like the rest of the country, Cuban baseball has been in crisis. But as the U.S. and Cuba have moved to normalize diplomatic relations, hope is bubbling that the rapprochement could bring new opportunities, stop Cuba’s top talent from fleeing and perhaps lead to reconciliation between those who’ve left and those who’ve stayed.
Originally published: March 24, 2015. Last Updated: March 24, 2015.