As though this year’s Pan American Games baseball tournament has not already suffered enough from bad planning and uncooperative weather, the event was thrown into near chaos on Tuesday when the final first-round games featuring the Dominican Republic vs. Nicaragua and Team USA vs. Brazil were washed out by a deluge that left both playing fields at Rock City Stadium looking more like lakes than baseball diamonds. It was the second postponement for Team USA, and only the latest development in the weather saga which has left teams playing afternoon games in conditions of near zero visibility. Yesterday’s crucial Cuba-Venezuela match found players on both teams complaining that the ball was barely visible on a field shrouded in low-hanging clouds. Failure of the lighting systems for both stadiums has also contributed to the difficulty and has meant that any games starting after 12 noon have only a marginal chance of reaching conclusion before the early evening Rio cloud covering decends from the surrounding hills.
Today’s postponements mean that the two final contests in Group A (necessary to decide first and second place between the Americans and Dominicans) must be replayed tomorrow morning, on the day originally tabbed for the semifinals. A third contest between Mexico and Venezuela (who tied 2-2 in their opener, in a game suspended by darkness) must also be played tomorrow in order to determine whether Mexico or Panama joins Cuba as Group B’s second entrant for the medal round. At the moment, Cuba is the only team whose qualification position is already set in stone. It is almost certain in the midst (if not the mist) of all this rescheduling that semifinal games will now have to be rescheduled for Thursday and the finals for Friday, though no official announcement has yet been forthcoming.
In all this reshuffling it appears that Cuba is easily the biggest beneficiary of the uncooperative weather. The Cubans seem now guaranteed of an extra day’s rest (two days in total) before the medal round begins, a big boost especially for ace reliever Pedro Lazo, whose 90-plus mph fastball has been "unseeable" during his closing three-inning stints on both Sunday (Mexico) and Monday (Venezuela). With two days rest Lazo would again be again fresh for closing roles in both the semifinals and finals, and an extra day now also guarantees manager Rey Anglada considerably more flexibility in electing his starters for the final contests.
Whatever obstacles these delays may pose for Team USA, the only remaining team with an unblemished record, they are garnering altogether little notice on the homefront where the Americans’ performances in Rio continue to go almost entirely unnoticed. Total ignorance of Team USA’s Pan Am Games trials is not surprising, of course, in a baseball culture that shows little interest in athletes who don’t already boast top-dollar paychecks and household name recognition. Baseball America–the self-anointed organ of amateur, collegiate, and international baseball news–has to date not carried a single on-line story about the talented squad of collegiate all-stars performing in Rio during the first three days of tournament action. And USA BASEBALL’s own on-line website is spo far carrying only box scores and wire-service recaps to summarize the American team’s daily performances. If baseball does in any sense remain "America’s Game" it clearly only does so for those with an eye placed squarely and solely on the corporate Major League Baseball’s televised version of the ancient diamond sport.