22 February 2010

An Interview with Cubano, author of the Cuban Ball Players blog


This past weekend I was fortunate enough to interview Cubano. He was also kind enough to provide a Spanish translation.

Cubano is the author of an essential blog if you wish to be aware and up-to-date on Cuban Baseball. It is called Cuban Ball Players. I have found it to be quite useful in understanding talent on the island. I'll let Cubano speak for himself:

Camden Depot: Could you introduce your site for us? (What is it that you do, information found at the site, your background, any personal experience with baseball in Cuba)

Cubano: I maintain a blog about Cuban baseball players and Cuban baseball in general. I post news, stats, videos and commentary on Cuban players participating in the different world leagues as well as the Cuban League and international tournaments. I was born in Cuba and I am a baseball aficionado. I hold a degree from Maryland. For all of you Terps fans out there, Go Terps!

Click on the link to read the rest of the interview.


CD: Adeiny Hechevarria has been garnering interest lately as he waits for the OK to sign his first professional contract. What are your thoughts on him and how would you compare him to Jose Iglesias?

C: I really like Hechevarria. He has good hands and great range. I have posted a couple of clips in my site featuring his range. I am glad he is receiving the attention he deserves. It is hard to project a player, but I think Hechevarria will be a MLB player one day. Hechevarria was the starting SS for one of the Cuban junior teams and Iglesias was the starting 2B. Hechevarria played for the Santiago de Cuba Wasps in Cuba.

As for the comparison among them, Iglesias is a very smart individual and he likes to be flashy and gather attention toward him. He reminds me of three time Gold Glove winner Rey Ordonez who played for the Mets in that respect. Hechevarria is a faster runner and probably will hit for more power that Iglesias thought Iglesias would probably hit for a higher average. He is a few months older that Iglesias too. I think both players are capable of winning a gold glove. Both have good arms too.


CD: Who should people be focusing on next as a premier talent still in Cuba? Can you provide some information on that particular prospect?

C: I asked my friend DViera who also has a column in my blog about young Cuban players to help me out. We agreed on most of the players except the SS position. I like Ciego de Ávila SS Yorbis Borroto for his defense. I think he has more range than Las Tunas Alexander Guerrero though Guerrero’s bat is hard to ignore. I also like OF Kenen Bailly from Guantánamo.

These Players will be this age this year (2010) regardless if at this time have turned a year older or not. The one in red are premium talent.

Catcher: Yosvany Alarcon (LTU) 25 years old
1st Baseman: José Dariel Abreu (CFG) 22 years old

video
José Dariel Abreu homered against Puerto Rican José Santiago during the 2009 BWC in Europe
Source: Tele Rebelde TV


2nd Baseman: Hector Olivera (STC) 25 years old
3rd Baseman: Yuliesky Gourriel (SSP) 25 years old

video
Sancti Spíritus Roosters Yuliesky Gourriel homered against Habana Cowboys Jonder Martínez.
Source: Tele Rebelde TV


Short Stop: Alexander Guerrero (LTU) 24 years old
Outfielders: Alfredo Despaigne (GRM) 24 years old

video
Granma Stallions Alfredo Despaigne homered against USA in the final game of the 2009 BWC in Europe.
Source: Tele Rebelde TV


Leonis Martin (VCL) 22 years old
Henry Urrutia (LTU) 23 years old
Yoennis Cespedes (GRM) 25 years old
Ramón Lunar (VCL) 23 years old
DH: Lerys Aguilera (HOL) 25 Years old

Pitchers: Vladimir Garcia (CAV) 22 years old
Dalier Hinojosa (GTM) 23 years old
Odrisamer Despaigne (IND) 22 years old
Onelkis Garcia (GTM) (L) 21 years old
Freddy Asiel Alvarez (VCL) 22 years old
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (LHB) 24 years old
Yadier Pedroso (LHB) 25 years old
Ismel Jimenez (SSP) 24 years old
Miguel Lahera (LHB) 24 years old
Noelvis Entenza (CFG) 25 years old

CD: Based on your knowledge, how is baseball different in Cuba in terms of player development as opposed to the Dominican Republic (i.e. trainers and academies) or in the US or Puerto Rico (i.e. high school, travel leagues, showcases)? Is it privatized? Does the government provide any funding?

C: In Cuba, everything is run by the government. There are schools called EIDES and ESPAS where athletes are trained and also attend classes. Every province has one EIDE and one ESPA. EIDE is from 7 through 9 grades and an ESPA is from 10 through 12 grades. They play against each other in a yearly basis. There are also tournaments yearly in every province called Serie Provincial. It would be something like Baltimore playing Annapolis and Rockville playing Cumberland and so forth. Many times the top players take part in these leagues something I found ridiculous and unnecessary because injures can happen and players could use some rest.

The Serie Nacional is the Cuban top league. Every province (14 totals) is represented including the Municipality Isla de la Juventud which is the other island south of the main island. Havana city (Ciudad Habana) has two teams, but one team Metropolitanos functions literally like a minor league team for the main team Industriales. There are 16 teams total.


CD: What are your personal thoughts on the Orioles facing the Cuban national team a decade or so ago and Peter Angelo’s' potential interest in taking his team back to Cuba for another exhibition?

C: I am in favor of MLB teams going to Cuba. It is good for the Cuban players because they are in the same field as MLB players. This is one reason I like the WBC because Cuban players can measure themselves against MLB players. So far they have fared well despite all defections. Cuban players are isolated from the world. It is true they travel to international tournaments but often they are confined to the hotels. When a Cuban hitter singled and reached first base and Albert Pujols greets him and he tells him ‘Gourriel, you are good enough to play in MLB’. This will only resonates in Gourriel’s ears and maybe he will come. It is a personal decision for the player to leave or not, but it is the right thing to do if you think about your family’s future. How can not you leave when you can stop worrying about putting food in the table for your kids especially if you are a top player?

What I am concerned about these games is any Gentlemen’s Agreement to somehow prevent or block Cuban players pursuing their dream in MLB. I ask your readers to do a search online and look for ex Orioles General Manager Syd Thrift statements with respect to signing Cuban players and make your own conclusions after the first Orioles-Team Cuba games.

The same agreements exist between MLB and the Japanese League. Japanese players should be able to play whenever they wish. This type of conduct is so un-American and as an American citizen myself I repudiate this behavior. I know the Orioles have signed several Cubans after they have been in the states for many years like Danys Baez, Alberto Castillo and Michel Hernández, but they have shown little effort to sign any recent newcomer from Cuba.



En Español

1. ¿Puede usted introducir su página a nuestros lectores?

Yo administro un blog acerca de de los jugadores cubanos en las diversas ligas de béisbol incluyendo la Serie Nacional. En nuestra página seguimos el rendimiento y las carreras de los jugadores cubanos.


2. Adeiny Hechevarria ha generado mucho interés últimamente. ¿Cuál es su opinión acerca de Hechevarria?

Yo creo que Hechevarria va a dar mucho de qué hablar en Grandes Ligas. Este muchacho que jugó par a las Avispas de Santiago de Cuba posee una defensa magnífica con un desplazamiento increíble. Tiene un brazo excelente y es muy veloz. Necesita mejorar su bateo pero yo pienso que puede batear entre 10-15 jonrones y batear 280 en GL.

Ambos jugadores son muy buenos a la defensa. Hechevarria es un poco más veloz y tiene más fuerza al bate. Iglesias quizás bate para un promedio mayor que Hechevarria. Ambos poseen un brazo muy bueno.


3. ¿Cuáles son los mejores jugadores en Cuba en estos momentos?

Bueno actualmente en Cuba hay varios prospectos muy buenos y jóvenes. En el bateo tenemos a al jardinero Alfredo Despaigne quien no impresiona por su físico pero es un tremendo bateador. Despaigne posee el record de HR para una serie con 32. Tenemos también al 3B Yuliesky Gourriel quien es un jugador muy completo. La revelación en esta temporada ha sido el 1B José Dariel Abreu quien ha bateado muchísimo. También te puedo nombrar al 2B Héctor Olivera que es una máquina de batear dobles. En el pitcheo están Vladimir García, Dalier Hinojosa, Onelquis García and Odrisamer Despaigne entre otros.

Catcher: Yosvany Alarcon (LTU) 25 years old

1rs Baseman: José Dariel Abreu (CFG) 22 years old

2nd Baseman: Hector Olivera (STC) 25 years old

3rd Baseman: Yuliesky Gourriel (SSP) 25 years old

Short Stop: Alexander Guerrero (LTU) 24 years old

Jardineros: Alfredo Despaigne (GRM) 24 years old

Leonis Martin (VCL) 22 years old

Henry Urrutia (LTU) 23 years old

Yoennis Cespedes (GRM) 25 years old

Ramón Lunar (VCL) 23 years old



DH: Lerys Aguilera (HOL) 25 Years old



Pitchers: Vladimir Garcia (CAV) 22 years old

Dalier Hinojosa (GTM) 23 years old

Odrisamer Despaigne (IND) 22 years old

Onelkis Garcia (GTM) (L) 21 years old

Freddy Asiel Alvarez (VCL) 22 years old

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (LHB) 24 years old

Yadier Pedroso (LHB) 25 years old

Ismel Jimenez (SSP) 24 years old

Miguel Lahera (LHB) 24 years old

Noelvis Entenza (CFG) 25 years old







4. ¿Cómo difiere la formación de peloteros en Cuba con respecto a otros países como Dominicana, Puerto Rico o Venezuela?

Bueno en Cuba hay diferentes categorías. Existen escuelas llamadas EIDEs y ESPAs donde los atletas reciben educación en una sesión y en la otra practican deportes. La EIDE es para deportistas del 7 al 9 grado y la ESPA es para deportes entre el 10 y el 12 grado.

Existen un torneo juveniles de 15-16 años y 17-18 años.

El torneo principal es la Serie Nacional.


5. ¿Cuál es tu opinión acerca del enfrentamiento de los Orioles contra Cuba hace una década y la nueva posibilidad de otro enfrentamiento?

Bueno yo siempre he apoyado estos enfrentamientos porque demuestra que los jugadores cubanos pueden jugar de tú a tú contra la elite del béisbol en el mundo. Además, los jugadores cubanos tienen la oportunidad de hablar con un Alberto Pujols o Miguel Cabrera que seguro les dicen que tienen la calidad para jugar en GL.

En lo que no estoy de acuerdo es en que se firmen o se lleguen a acuerdo verbales entre M LB y el gobierno cubano para discriminar a los jugadores cubanos que escapan de la isla. El ex Gerente general de los Orioles Syd Thrift hizo algunas declaraciones después del primer enfrentamiento entre ambos equipos que dejaron muchas dudas en cuanto a los Orioles y sus políticas con respecto a jugadores cubanos exiliados. Si alguien desea más información puede hacer una búsqueda en la Internet acerca de este tema y se darán cuenta de este engorroso tema. Últimamente, los Orioles han firmado a varios exiliados como Danys Báez, Alberto Castillo y Michel Hernández pero han mostrado poco interés con jugadores recién llegados.

Estos acuerdos entre ligas existen también entre MLB y la Liga Japonesa. Pienso que es algo repudiable.









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