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Might This Be A Final Waterloo, or a Surprising Watershed Year for Cuba in Tokyo?

Tokyo (March 6, 2017)

Cuba has unquestionably been the biggest overall surprise of the first three World Baseball Classic editions. Team Israel may already be well down the road to changing that scenario during the first couple of days of the current renewal for MLB’s increasingly popular “true, legitimate” baseball world series. But across the first three high profile showcase events it has been the Cubans who have written the most unexpected fairy tales and turned the largest numbers of sceptics into true believers. 

Fidel Castro and Baseball

His fastball has long since died. He still has a few curveballs which he throws at us routinely. – Nicholas Burns, United States State Department Spokesman

The Cuban League (Post 1962)

The popular national sport of baseball maintained and even tightened its hold on the island nation of Cuba in the aftermath of the 1959 socialist revolution. In fact the national game actually expanded in popularity and elevated in talent level during several decades immediately after Fidel Castro’s midcentury rise to power.

Cuban MLB Presence Stabilizes

With a number of hot prospects (led by Yasmani Tomas, Rusney Castillo and Dalier Hinojosa) perched in AAA, the Cuban big league presence is likely to soar again during the first several months of the new 2015 season. But currently only 18 Cubans are found on MLB Opening Day rosters. The single newcomer is Raciel Iglesias who has been tabbed as a fifth starter by the Cincinnati Reds and will likely become Cuban big leaguer #187 before the week is over. The list of Cubans (12 in the NL and 6 in the AL) on Opening Day Rosters is as follows (salaries included in parentheses):

Cuba Strikes Gold with its First Caribbean Series Crown in More Than a Half-Century

A spirited 2014 Cuban National Series champion Pinar del Río ball club, reinforced with some of the Caribbean island’s biggest stars, staged a rather stunning comeback in San Juan on the final weekend of Caribbean Series #57 and thus made history in the process. The inspired win erased the deep disappointments of last year’s long-awaited return to Caribbean Series competition, where the country had not appeared since a 1960 title by the professional league Cienfuegos Elefantes closed out the First Stage of the annual winter league championships.

Cuban League’s Expanded Player Draft

For the third straight year of split-season league play, Cuba held its nationally televised player dispersal draft on Christmas night, this time with a new wrinkle. For this year’s National Series #54 edition the mid-year selection of reinforcement players from the eight eliminated teams was expanded from five to seven rounds and thus also from the original 40 to a new total of 56 ballplayers.

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