Wednesday October 22nd, 2014, 5:39 am (EDT)

The moral importance of the Classic

At the beginning of the Revolution the Olympics were an event for amateurs.

When the concepts of developed capitalism managed to penetrate the Olympic Games, athletic activity ceased being an issue of health and education, its objectives throughout history.

The only country in the world where that character was preserved was Cuba which, over many years, attained the highest per capita rate of gold medals in terms of its population.

Our finest and most worthy athletes, those who have not become corrupt, have not sold themselves, nor betrayed their people and their homeland, are the ones who represent us with honor in international competitions.

Those countries in which new revolutionary processes have emerged, such as Venezuela, and which consider sports a sacred right of the people, are now unable to participate in highly prestigious events with their professional athletes, given it requires the authorization of the private companies which have acquired rights over those athletes. Athletes are bought and sold like any other commodity. Many of them are serious people who love the country in which they were born, but who cannot decide for themselves.

Leonel Fernández, president of the Dominican Republic, has bitterly complained about that situation and his team has been eliminated from the Classic. Chávez talks about members of the Venezuelan team with enthusiasm and fondness, while complaining bitterly that his Venezuelan star pitchers and batters in the Major Leagues are not allowed to play under the Venezuelan flag.

Cuba has an excellent national team, made up of players from all parts of the island, where every province feels proud of its contribution to the Cuban selection. Individually, their rivals may be equal to or even better than many of our players, given the economic and technical resources of the United States, Canada, Japan and others. What distinguishes the Cuban athletes is their strong motivation on account of the values that they represent.

The team selected is doubtless the best to have represented our country, given the track records, qualities and merits of each player. Opinion polls demonstrate that, given the degree of satisfaction expressed for the selection throughout the country, with a few exceptions.

Now we have to address real facts:

The Classic was organized by those who run the exploitation of sports in the United States, people who, moreover, are astute, intelligent and also as diplomatic as they need to be. However, they cannot do without our country in those Classics.

They placed the three best teams from the (first) Classic and the Olympics — Japan, Korea and Cuba — in the same group, so that they would eliminate each other. Last time, they placed us in the Latin American group, this time in the Asian group.

For that reason, between today and tomorrow in San Diego, one of the three will be irremissibly eliminated without having previously competed against the team of the United States, the country of the “Major Leagues.” This means that, in the next stage, two of the three will be knocked out. We are thus obliged to wage our battle and draw up strategies in the midst of those vicissitudes.

Japan’s team beat us on the 15th because we undoubtedly committed errors of management at that point, thousands of kilometers away, where it is virtually impossible for Cuba to influence the management of its team.

Currently, the views of our population are divided, but an ample majority is of the opinion that the most convenient result would be a win for Korea against Japan. They understand that the team from that great Asian country is like a precision watch. Of its 28 members, 23 play in the Japanese league. Each one of them is programmed and they have analyzed the characteristics of our players one by one.

Like all Asians, they possess a large dose of sangfroid. Thus they have beaten us twice: in the final game that decided the last Classic and in the first game between the two in this event.

On the other hand, Korea has invested major resources in facilities and technology. One the eve of the last Olympics, in which we had to adapt to a totally opposite time change, they were splendid with us and offered us their facilities free of charge, but at the same time, they exhaustively studied each and every one of our athletes, shooting film and footage of them. They know all of our pitches and the response of each one of our batters to pitches. They constitute the principal adversary, because they are likewise methodical and bat with more strength than the Japanese.

Despite the adverse circumstances noted, neither of the two is invulnerable to our team. A number of Cuban players are new. We have worked more on the weak points of our star players. There is one principle that cannot be violated: whichever is the adversary tomorrow, Wednesday, none of the habitual well-worn paths can be followed.

We possess a lineup of strong batters, almost all of whom can hit a home run — and they have demonstrated that — as well as a lineup of light, rapid and safe batters, who when combined with the strong batters can wreak considerable damage, like they did yesterday against Mexico.

Almost all the pitchers are liberated for Wednesday. We have to start from the characteristics of each one of them, their degree of control and domination of pitches in each and any of the concrete situations that could arise. One of the inviolable principles is that there can be no vacillation whatsoever when a pitcher has to be substituted immediately, if they show a tendency to lose control facing the Japanese or Koreans.

Our experts of profound experience who advise the INDER should indicate beforehand the priority order in which a lefthander or right-hander should take charge of the mound. There could be an opening pitcher, or a number of them who can play the role of an excellent opening pitcher, for which we have the necessary raw material.

There is one thing that every player should internalize. Not to feel discouraged for a single instant. Not to try to desperately hit every ball, as was the case with some of our batters in the last encounter with Japan.

In our country, unfortunately, we have the unhealthy habit of waiting for the first strike, an old custom inculcated in Cuban baseball players, a habit of which opposing pitchers are aware, calmly throwing the first strike straight over home. We have to force a hard task on them from the very first moment.

We have a model to follow in our team: the incredible serenity and security of Cepeda, to whom I wish to pay tribute in this Reflection, for his prowess. He has not in the least varied in his sports efficiency since his first time at bat in the Classic. Yesterday, when we had five runs against Mexico, he had batted in four of them. That game demonstrated that we can beat an adversary.

I greet all the members of the excellent team representing us in San Diego.

Patria o Muerte

¡Venceremos!

Fidel Castro Ruz
March 17, 2009
7:21 p.m.

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