For those fans wishing to follow Cuba’s fortunes in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, once again full coverage will soon be provided on our special and colorful WBC website page found at www.BaseballdeCuba.com. We will be covering the upcoming “Clasico” (as we have covered all major international tournament events featuring the Cuban national team over the past seven years) with in-depth coverage in both Spanish and English and will also provide a link to viewing all of Cuba’s games directly from Cuban television broadcasts). The www.BaseballdeCuba.com WBC page will in fact be the most detailed and elaborate independent webpage covering the events of World Baseball Classic III.
Our tournament coverage will feature my own English-language reports and feature stories directly from the scene in both Fukuoka and Tokyo (and perhaps also from San Francisco if Cuba reaches the tournament’s final round). In addition, I will be blogging on this MLB site daily from Japan between March 1 and March 14, and also providing (during the month of February) a series of pre-tournament introductory stories. These preview stories – beginning during the coming week—will include a series of portraits for a number of Team Cuba’s top stars under the title of CUBA WBC PREVIEW: THE BEST UNKNOWN PLAYERS IN THE WORLD.
This latter series will feature such Cuban stalwarts as designated hitter Freddie Cepeda (the only unanimous post-tournament All-Star selection at WBC 2009), manager Victor Mesa (legendary outfielder of the 1980s and more recently one of the island’s most colorful and controversial diamond figures), Alexei Bell (the only ballplayer in any known league ever to smash a pair of grand slams in the first inning on Opening Day), third sacker Yulieski Gourriel (one of Cuba’s top sluggers of the past decade), pitcher Ismel Jiménez (owner of a lifetime 102-38 league ledger that recently overhauled El Duque’s former Cuban League standard for winning percentage), mammoth first baseman José Dariel Abreu (who has twice missed the batting Triple Crown in by an eyelash during the past several island seasons), lefty starter Yulieski González (owner of an unmatched 15-0 league record in 2008), Alfredo Despaigne (Cuba’s single-season home run record holder), and southpaw bullpen ace Norberto González (surprise starter in the 2008 Beijing Gold Medal loss to Korea).
Also included will be promising newcomers like Erisbel Arruebarruena (touted by many as the best shortstop ever produced by an island nation that earlier spawned Willy Miranda, Rey Ordóñez, Germán Mesa and Eduardo Paret), José M. Fernández (flashy lefty-swinging Matanzas infielder and this season’s current Cuban League batting leader), Guillermo Heredia (speedy slugging Matanzas outfielder who bats right but oddly throws left), and muscular outfielder Rusney Castillo (batting champion and MVP of the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Panama).
Whether you are a dedicated follower of Cuban baseball, a mere curious follower of this year’s WBC event, or a member of the MLB professional scouting community, you won’t want to miss this series of succinct and revealing portraits for more than a dozen of Cuba’s most outstanding ballplayers. And you might enjoy a peak at the Third Classic provided from the perspective of a fan and columnist who remains focused not on the North American professional baseball world (so familiar to all) but rather on the lesser known aspects of a remarkable “alternative universe” that is Cuban League baseball.
Appearing Soon will be More Features on “Alternative Universe” Baseball Stars: