Pinch Hitter Gawain Owen is in Haarlem Holland and is following Team Cuba. Here is his Honkbal Week WrapUp as Curacao wins seeing Cuba Eliminated.
Cuba fell to 0-4 in Haarlem and are now officially out of the medal round starting on Thursday. It is hard to comprehend that an island once renowned for it’s baseball talent is struggling so badly. Especially in a tournament it once dominated.
Traditionally Curacao would be easy pickings for Cuba. Expected to feast on the very average pitching from Jordan Lucas, instead he dominated. The Cuban lineup has only generated 4 runs in 4 games.
Cuba started 44 year old Leandro Martinez. Martinez had previously played in Haarlem in 2012. While he did a fine job holding Curacao to 1 run in 7 innings, it has to leave you wondering what is the future of Cuban baseball in international tournaments.
In my tournament preview, I mentioned the last iteration in 2018 when the organisers were not pleased by the Cuban team and it’s 5th place finish. Whilst I can’t comment on what the organisers are thinking about an 0-4 Cuban team this time, what I can comment on is the number of fans supporting Cuban is a lot less than previous years. In previous visits to Holland, Cuba often brang a core of the same players. The fans enjoyed interacting with them after games. Players autographs and jerseys were in demand, this helped fund shopping. Having been in the stadium for all games and being in the team hotel the footfall around the team is very little.
I now wonder if sending the “Winners of Serie Nacional” was really a smoke screen. The Federation perhaps knew that it would be hard to field a competitive team. Many of the better Cuban players are in Japan, Canada and Latin America. If not Team Granma, we might wonder who would have been the 25 players selected. How would they have stood up against the teams we have seen play this week?
Cuba has one game remaining in the opening round against Italy. At least for pride it is essential that Cuba win this game. Will Carlos Marti stick with the same batters he has used everyday or will he mix it up? Looking forward beyond this tournament and knowing the standard of the teams in the Classic in 2023, I can’t help but be worried for what lays ahead.