The NBA opened the first training academy of a professional US basketball league in Cuba on Thursday, made possible by the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana
The bleeding of Cuban baseball continued this past week with the announcement of the suspension of Villa Clara player Ramón Lunar after he was caught in an attempt to leave the country illegally.
A Yander Guevara made for deciding games and an offensive that took off from the very first episode, left no doubt about the intentions of the Ciego de Avila Tigers to win the Cuban baseball league championship.
Against the wall, the Isla de la Juventud Pirates managed a 5-3 win over Ciego de Avila on Friday to force a deciding game seven of the Cuban baseball championship series on Saturday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. in Ciego de Avila.
Yorbis Borroto belted a solo home run in the seventh inning and scored his team’s final run in the top of the ninth, driven in on a hit by Yeniet Perez, to defeat Isla de la Juventud 4-3 in the fifth game of Cuban baseball’s championship series and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven event.
Thirty Cuban and Cuban-American players who opened the 2015 MLB contest on the big league rosters receive wages for the year amounting together to US $135 million, a figure higher than the payroll of at least 20 franchises in the current season.
Isla de la Juventud broke open a tight pitcher’s duel in the eighth inning on Saturday on a two-run homer by Jorge L. Barcelán to take a 5-2 lead. They scored one more in the ninth and held off a Ciego de Avila comeback attempt to win 6-4 and tie their Cuban baseball championship series at one game each.
The Cuban baseball finals begin this Friday and, for the first time in history, none of the teams considered the greats or classics of the island’s national sport will be present. What’s more, a team that has never made it this far, Isla de la Juventud, will be playing against Ciego de Avila.
Those of us with some gray in our hair, or those who left Cuba after the severe economic crisis struck the island in the 1990s, will recall that, at the time, basketball was the second most popular sport in the country, second only to baseball. In practice, the material conditions facing players back then weren’t a whole lot better than they are today, but a successful generation of athletes would fill the court with fans, eager to enjoy the magical way in which Roberto Carlos Herrera handled the ball, or how Lazaro Borrell or Richard Matienzo dunked it.
Ciego de Avila defeated Granma four games to one in their semifinal series which ended on Tuesday afternoon with a 3-0 shutout from Yander Guevara.