If on a winter’s night a traveler, or Cuba Days and Croatian Nights

Pcbanglada

Bjarkman with Industriales manager Ray Anglada in Havana’s Estadio Latinoamericano (February 9, 2008)

February-March brings another session of wild globetrotting, a regular occurrence this time of year and obviously the factor which explains my relative silence of late on this particular blog site. The first half of last month was spent transversing the Cuban League scene in both Havana and Sancti Spiritus, gathering some final research nuggets for my current volume-in-progress, Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball, 1962-2007 (dure from McFarland later in the year), and also checking up on the current fortunes of my favorite team located in the island’s central-most province. Recent weeks have again found me back in Zagreb, obstensibly tagging along on another of my wife’s regular research junkets here in the former Yugoslavia, while actually catching up on some overdue writing and reading projects that must be finished before my annual Florida spring training visit at the end of March. There nis no baseball here in Croatia, of course, only the torment of constant snow showers as well as an unwelcome 4.5 earthquake earlier this week–sufficient conditions to enhance the past and future baseball escapism of both Havana and Tampa Bay.

Brief Notes from Cuba: There were few surprises on the Cuban League scene during my week-long stay in Havana (watching a pair of series between Metros and Habana Province, and also Metros and Industriales), and my brief roadtrip to Sancti Spiritus (where my personal favorites continued their season-long slump while suffering a 12-1 knockout thumping at the hands of Pinar del Rio). Of course the National Series this season has been crammed with its sufficient share of earlier surprises: the remarkable pitching in Habana Province (especially by Jonder Martinez at 11-1, with a no-hitter to his credit, and Yulieski Gonzalez at 11-0); the dramatic individual home run race which still finds four players in striking distance of Joan Carlos Pedroso’s single-season record; and the relative collapses of a pair of pre-season favorites, Granma (currently bringing up the rear in Group D) and Pinar del Rio (hanging onto a slim Group A lead but in real danger of soon being overtaken by Isla de la Juventud for the final Eastern sector playoff spot). In the absence of regular commentary on this site, the interested reader can follow these current Cuban League developments on www.baseballdecuba.com, where I have recently posted columns updating the tight pennant race in Group C and the one-sided “non-contest” defining Group D. Jonder Martinez’s recent no-hitter achievement (versus Ciego de Avila) is also covered in full detail on the aforementioned Cuban League website, as is the home run chase featuring Alexei Bell and Yoennis Cespedes.

Briefer Notes from Croatia: One delightful discovery during the hours of leisure reading this past week here in Zagreb has been John D. MacDonald’s remarkable early science fiction novela entitled “Half-Past Eternity” (first published July 1950 in Super Science Stories and also available in reprint form in the 1978 Fawcett paperback edition of MacDonald sf stories entitled Other Times, Other Worlds). Just when one might conclude that MLB’s current psychodrama of scientifically enhanced athletic performance (starring Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte among a cast of dozens if not thousands) is truly “something new under the sun”–a unique product of late 20th century American celebrity and consummer culture–along comes MacDonald. One of our most underrated authors of the past half-century (best known for his Travis McGee thrillers) apparently somehow saw it all onfolding almost six decades back, smack in the midst of the more innocent sporting age of Willie, Mickey and the Duke. For a useful and entertaining perspective on the latent cultural forces that produce something like the Bonds-MLB-Clemens conspiracy, I highly recommend that the reader track down MacDonald’s surpisingly insightful tale of the future of big-time American sport. For me MacDonald’s tale was, of course, the perfect bridge between the nostalgic world of Cuban baseball (experienced in early February) and the looming commercial circus of MLB Florida spring training now looming just around the corner.

Hvala na posjeti!

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