Walters: Cuba’s been losing its best players to America

From John Walters at Newsweek on May 2, 2015, with mention of SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman:

On the 2011 season premiere of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain trekked to the Western hemisphere’s living monument to Marxism, Cuba. There, the peripatetic host slaked his thirst with rum and sated his appetite for culture by taking in a game of baseball, which is truly that country’s national pastime. Bourdain seemed charmed by the setting of the Serie Nacional (National Series), the highest level of beisbol on the Caribbean island—until he discovered that alcohol was not served at the concession stand.

“No beer?” he said to his guide, an American named Peter Bjarkman, with a look of pure anguish. “The revolution is clearly a failure.”

A strong argument in his favor was playing out (and playing) in the background as he issued that complaint. Rusney Castillo, an outfielder with Ciego de Avila, who was then earning at most a few thousand dollars per month as a baseball player, was rounding the bases after slugging a home run. Three years later, Castillo, following his defection to the Dominican Republic that involved a 23-hour nautical odyssey, would sign a seven-year, $72 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

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Originally published: May 4, 2015. Last Updated: May 4, 2015.