One more Cuban victory over the Japanese collegiate all-stars here in Haarlem on Friday evening will likely set up a welcomed rematch of Cuba’s Beijing-favorite Olympic squad and a crack team of American college stars bound for next week’s World University Games Tournament in the Czech Republic. In last Sunday’s preliminary-round match between the two clubs, Team USA walked off with a thrilling 1-0 win in a highly entertaining pitchers’ duel. The Americans (who can finish no worse than 4-1, if they drop today’s match with Chinese Taipei) have clinched first seed in the pool-play round, with Cuba (at 4-1) finishing second. Cuba thus faces Japan (who they earlier defeated 5-3) in tonight’s first semifinal, with the USA squaring off against the undetermined fourth-place finisher in tomorrow night’s second semifinal. The opponent for the Americans will likely be Taipei, if the Chinese can win either end of today’s doubleheader with the Americans and the Dutch Caribbean entry. A double loss for Taiwan, however, will force a complex tie-breaking rule (fewest head-to-head runs allowed) between Taipei, Holland (the Dutch Olympic squad that finish a disappointing 1-4 after last night’s loss to Cuba) and the Dutch Antilles.
Pictured above is this author in his role here in Haarlem as the entire “unofficial” Cuban press corps, crowded in amongst a corps of Japanese press and scouts. Economic conditions have forced Cuba to send its normal baseball press corps directly to Beijing, bypassing Haarlem. The only “Cuban” writer here as a result is yours truly (doing play-by-play and game stories for both www.baseballdecuba.com and www.radiococo.cu). If the depressed economy in Cuba has cancelled their press appearance here, it is a lack of interest in international baseball that has also left the American press unrepresented. The only other American here on press row is Larry Little, press officer for Team USA who is filing daily reports of www.usabaseball.com.
It is noteworthy that this photo features a Japanese scouting contingent of considerable stature, all here to watch the Cuban Olympic squad. Immediately in front of me stands Japanese Olympic team manager Senichi Hoshino, former manager and current GM of the Japanese League Hanshin Tigers. tT the left of Hoshino sits former Japanese League home run champ Koichi Tabuchi, and to the far right is former batting champ Kohji Yamamoto, one-time manager of the Hiroshima Carp. An impressive corps of Japanese “big leaguers” indeed.