Victoria de Giron Stadium in Matanzas was host to the 61st Cuban National Series All Star weekend. The top league in Cuba does things a bit different. The venue was announced roughly a month before the competition and the participants were selected by the upper brass of the baseball federation. The recent success of the Matanzas Cocodrilos likely cemented the choice although upstart Mayabeque received serious consideration to host the Stars game.
The Little Leaguers were up first in an exhibition contest between Matanzas and Bayamo of Granma. Cuba has only recently joined ‘Little League’ who will contest the 75th Little League World Series later this summer. Cuba will compete with Panama and Puerto Rico with two of the three teams receiving direct entry into the tournament in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The 12-1 win for Bayamo unofficially puts them in the driver seat to compete for the first appearance by a Cuban team in the World Series for players under 13 years of age.
The rest of Saturday’s program included skills competitions on top of the home run hitting contest. Eliseo Rojas of La Isla was the fastest baserunner from home to first. He paced the pack of 8 with a time of 3.45 seconds. For reference. Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves was the fastest in the Majors in 2021 at 4.10 seconds, this of course occurred in game action.
Yorbis Borroto, Raúl González and Yordanis Samón combined to turn the fastest double play. They slickly turned the keystone at 2.18 seconds. Gonzalez and Borroto might have had a slight advantage as they are a regular Double play combo with Ciego de Ávila. Borroto defended the title, although last year he was accompanied by Jorge Alomá and Lisbán Correa of Industriales.
Industriales’ Oscar Valdes took home his second Catcher throwing accuracy title. He most consistently delivered the baseball to the marker set up on the second base bag. Carlos Gomez won the equivalent competition for outfielders, who had to deliver from mid centre field to the plate.
There are similarities to the Major League All Star celebration. Both have a home run derby and the game itself occurring on successive days, sort of. The Home run derby was contested over both days, the final four contestants completing the competition before the start of Sunday’s East vs West showdown. Rafael Vinales took the derby title he advanced with 9 round trippers on Saturday and swatted another 11 in the final round on Sunday to take the crown.
The All Star Game itself was an exciting back and forth affair and went to extra innings. The Western stars ultimately triumphed 12-11 in 10 innings. Carlos de la Tejera walked it off with a single for the home squad in the slugfest. Dayan Garcia hit only the second grand slam in All Star game history. He joins Lisbon Correa who did it just last year. The win ties the provincial opponents at 16 All Star game wins a piece.