Before I began capturing video and writing about Cuban baseball, my photos connected me with the Cuban baseball community. Some of my early photos were the first to circulate as the internet was in it’s naissance. I have had the good fortune to return many times and capture the Cuban National Team in Canada as well. Join me in a new series where I share some of my favourite photos and tell the Stories of some of Cuba’s best players. Today let’s look at Frederich Cepeda Through My Lens.
Frederich Cepeda born April 8th, 1980 is a switch hitting corner outfielder. His home Cuban club are the Sancti Spiritus Gallos. But as we will see he has spent time as a reinforcement with many teams in the Cuban National Series. Cepeda is in the conversation as the best Cuban slugger not to appear in Major League Baseball. Many consider him the most clutch hitter for team Cuba this century. He has won Olympic gold in 2004, and was a middle of the order bat for Cuba in winning silver at the original World Baseball Classic.
My camera’s introduction to Cepeda was in early 2018. For the past decade the Cuban National Series has employed a two-phase season approach. At the mid point of the season half the teams cease playing. The remaining teams are allowed to select reinforcements. Cepeda was a reinforcement for the Matanzas Cocodrilos in the 57th Cuban National Series. Unfortunately Matanzas would be upset by the eventual champion Granma Alazanes in that series. The Sancti Spiritus Gallos had consistently failed to qualify for the 2nd phase until 2020. Buoyed by youngsters and steadied by Cepeda they would finish first in the standings. The Gallos would fall in the first round of the playoffs but many think the future is bright for the Roosters.
The Cuban National team has toured the Independent CanAm league in 2016, 2017 & 2019. Fortunately this has included stops in Canada’s capital. Each time I had in dugout access to the club. This tour has acted as a tune up for international tournaments. The rosters were veteran laden but I was surprised to find out Cepeda would be travelling with the squad. Cepeda acted as the DH in most of the games. Unfortunately it appears the Golden Age for Cuba in international competition has passed. At the very least the rest of the world has caught up. Frederich Cepeda though does represent a bridge to the past while at points proving he still has gas in the tank.
Sancti Spiritus is on the rise but as recently as 2019 Frederich Cepeda was still a coveted reinforcement. I caught up with him during his time with Industriales of Havana. Industriales are considered the Yankees of Cuban baseball but like the Yankees have gone through the 2010’s without a title. This drought isn’t due to the addition of Cepeda though. Frederich hit .360 with 7 home runs and 21 RBI in just 100 AB’s. The Lions eventually lost to Camagüey in the 59th Cuban National Series Playoffs. Cepeda has passed some unique statistical benchmarks in recent seasons. Frederich Cepeda is the only player in Cuban National Series history with 2000 hits, 300 HR’s and 400 doubles.