2023 Cuban Elite League Baseball

https://www.youtube.com/@telerebelde_tv/streams Live Game streams Available via the Link

The 2023 Cuban Elite League will cap what has been another fascinating year for Cuban baseball. A fourth place finish in the World Baseball Classic, a Caribbean Cup title, their first appearance in the Little League World Series and appearances in myriad smaller international tournaments have made it feel like 365 days of baseball off the island. Cuba sits 8th in the W.B.S.C rankings, buoyed by the successes mentioned. It is hard to decipher if this is a return to past glory or a dead cat bounce. The story of the year is likely the reintegration of previous defectors, however it is still a challenge to keep top talent from leaving.

On the Island it looked as if the fans had defected as well. The 62nd Cuban National Series saw Las Tunas hoist their second title. Engagement was a crescendo though as stadiums were vibrant and full during the playoffs. The Cuban baseball enthusiast made their voice heard more than just in the bleachers. It seemed every decision from the Baseball Federation made fandom harder. Much of this is spurred by the dire economic situation but certain moves are still confounding. Inconsistent or cryptic news releases, morning start times and no night games. Decreasing TV, Radio and Internet coverage in a time when that bandwidth should be expanding. Public backlash did lead to the righting of some of these wrongs. They’ve already built it, but if you maintain it they will come.

The inaugural Elite League saw the creation of six newly monikered squads combining the rosters of the 16 Cuban National Teams. This format isn’t unique in Cuban history, but perhaps best left in the past. The hope was to recapture the lustre of Serie Selectiva of the 1980s and 1990s. A format once used to audition talent for the vaunted National Teams of Cuba’s Golden Age. The Elite Series did fill part of this role but the reality is that only a select few players would join the returning MLB’ers and Pros on The World Baseball Classic roster. Cubans want to cheer for their Provincial squad competing for superiority.

The league’s start was delayed by late arriving uniforms. The New team brands didn’t really connect even if some were nods to squads of yore. This might be best exemplified by a social media vote to name the Havana contingent. Voters overwhelmingly chose Almendares. The poll was sold as being binding, however despite this the team was called the Portuarios for no obvious reason.

To little surprise, The Agricultores, comprised of Granma and Las Tunas were crowned champions. Those two Cities have won six of the past seven National Series championships. The league may have been called Elite but the acceptance from fans wasn’t. The trend I described regarding the National Series began with the Elite League. The 2023 Cuban Elite League Series will commence this November will look very different.

The six teams competing to be called elite in 2023 will be the top six playoff performers with some additions. We have already seen select reinforcements decline their invitation. Catcher Osvaldo Vazquez was originally chosen by Santiago but apparently would have been required to pay his own way to the home of the Wasps. Roel Santos and Freddy Asiel Alvarez have apparently declined their invitation to join Industriales. Then there are the cases of defending MVP Osday Silva (Santiago) who left during the Caribbean Cup and Pedro Revilla who walked from his contract with Chunichi to chase Big League dreams.

The talent flow isn’t exclusively off the island though. Yasmany Tomas returned to Industriales although gastronomic issues knocked him out of the playoffs and commitments in Mexico will prevent him from competing in the 2023 Cuban Elite League. However former Red Sox mega million signee Rusney Castillo will return to Cuba and is joining Matanzas. The Cocodrilos have had success in recent years repatriating former MLB’ers with Erisbel Arruebarrena, Yadir Drake and Yadil Mujica becoming key contributors to their run as top contenders each year.

https://www.youtube.com/@telerebelde_tv/streams Live Game streams Available via the Link

The 40 game schedule is set to commence Tuesday November 7th, 2023 with a finals rematch as Industriales will visit Las Tunas. The games will be contested in 4 game series. Game times have been set largely for 6:30pm except in Artemisa whose infrastructure will only permit day games. Baseball will also return to Sunday afternoons, after a Sunday acting as a travel day in more recent series.

https://www.youtube.com/@telerebelde_tv/streams Live Game streams Available via the Link

Phil Selig

Canada’s Top Expert on Cuban Baseball. I first ventured to the island in 2012 with camera in hand and captured some of the future baseball stars of the world. I have returned many times immersing myself in the game and culture. Get inside the Dugout for a unique look at Cuban Baseball.

One Comment

Comments are closed.