Reflections of Comrade Fidel
Fidel Castro Ruz
March 19, 2009
[Cuba had reached the final of the last 50 tournaments in which it has played, dating back five decades, according to baseball historian Peter C. Bjarkman. But after the March 18, 2009 5-0 loss to Japan, Cuba was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic in the second round, its earliest exit since the 1959 Pan American Games.]
In the game that finished today at almost 3 in the morning between the teams from Japan and Cuba, we were unquestionably defeated.
The organizers of the Classic decided that the three countries in the first three spots of world baseball shall play it out in San Diego, including Cuba arbitrarily in the Asian group despite the fact that we are definitely in the Caribbean.
However, I doubt that any team from the West can defeat Japan and Korea in the group of competitors who will be playing in Los Angeles in the next three days. Only one of the two Asian countries with its quality shall decide who will take the first and second spots in the Classic.
What was important for the organizers was to eliminate Cuba, a revolutionary country that has heroically resisted and has not been able to be defeated in the battle of ideas. Nevertheless, one day we shall again be a dominant power in that sport.
The excellent team representing us in the Classic, made up mostly of young athletes, is without a doubt a genuine representation of the best athletes in our country.
They competed with great courage; they didn’t lose heart and they aimed for victory right up to the last inning.
The line-up, suggested from Cuba by the management and their expert advisors, was good and inspired confidence. It was strong both offensively and defensively. They had a good reserve of pitching talent and strong hitters, in case the changing circumstances of a game would require it. By applying the same concepts, they won and dominated the powerful Mexican team.
I should point out that the leadership of the team in San Diego was very poor. The old criteria of timeworn methods prevailed, against a capable adversary who constantly innovated.
We must learn the relevant lessons.
Baseball today, among all the sports, is the most capable of originating expectations because of the enormous variety of situations that might arise and the specific part played by each of the men on the diamond. It has a reputation everywhere as a truly exciting show. Even though the stadiums fill up with fans, there is nothing that compares to the pictures captured by the cameras. It seems to have been created so that baseball can be transmitted by that media.
Television heightens interest by going into great detail about every action. It even offers the possibility of seeing the stitching and the rotation of a ball thrown at 100 miles an hour, a ball rolling along a white line or it being caught in the glove of a defender one tenth of a second before or after the runner’s foot touches base. I can think of no other sport which can compete with that variety of situations, except chess, where the activity ceases to be muscular and becomes an intellectual one, something impossible to televise.
In Cuba, where we practice almost all sports and where we have numerous amateur players, baseball has become a national passion.
We have gone to sleep on our laurels and we are now paying the consequences. Korea and Japan, two countries which are geographically really far away from the United States, have invested abundant economic resources into this imported, or imposed, sport.
Development of such a sports activity in those two Asian nations obeys their own distinctive characteristics. Their inhabitants are hard-working, self-sacrificing and tenacious people.
Japan, a developed and wealthy country with more than 120 million inhabitants, has devoted itself to developing baseball. Like everything under the capitalist system, professional sports are big business, but national will has imposed rigorous norms on their professional players.
Cuban players who have worked in Japan know very well the norms that have been imposed. The salaries being paid to the professionals in the Big Leagues of the U.S.A. are logically much higher than in Japan, a country which, for its part, possesses the most powerful professional league after that of the U.S. No professional Japanese player is allowed to move on to the U.S. Big Leagues, or to any other foreign country, unless he has played for 8 years in the national Japanese league. For that reason, none of the members on its international team are younger than 28 years old.
Training sessions are incredibly tough and methodical. They have devised technical methods to develop the reflexes each player needs to have. Every day, batters practice with hundreds of balls thrown from the left and the right. As for the pitchers, they are made to throw four hundred balls every day. It they make any mistake in the game, they must then throw one hundred more. They do it with pleasure, as if it were a form of self-punishment. Thus they acquire notable muscle control which obeys the orders sent by their brains. That’s why their pitchers amaze everyone with their ability to land their throws at the exact spots they choose. Similar methods are applied to each of the activities each of the athletes must carry out at the positions they are defending and in their batting activities.
Athletes in the other Asian country, the Republic of Korea, are developed with similar characteristics, thus turning it into a powerhouse in professional world baseball.
Asians are not as physically strong as their western rivals. Nor are they as explosive. But strength sufficient is not enough to defeat the reflexes that their players have developed; and explosiveness in itself cannot compensate for the methodology and sangfroid of their athletes. Korea has tried to look for more heavily-built men who are capable of hitting more forcefully.
Our hopes were based on the patriotic dedication of our athletes and the fervor with which they defend their honor and their people, from a pool which is several times, even dozens of times, lesser in human resources as compared, for example, with Japan, discounting from those resources those that are weak in conscience and permit themselves to be bribed by our enemies. But this is not enough to maintain our supremacy in baseball. We have to apply methods that are more technical and scientific when we develop our sports figures. Our country’s excellent educational and sports base allows for that.
Nowadays we have enough young pitchers and batters with magnificent sports qualities. In a nutshell, we have to revolutionize the methods for the preparation and development of our athletes, not just in baseball, but in all the sports disciplines.
Our national team should be returning home in the next few hours. Let us receive them with all the honors their exemplary performance deserves. They are not the ones responsible for the errors that led them to the adverse outcome.
We are the ones to blame, because we weren’t able to correct our errors in time.
Cuban’s Take Slide:
Reflections of Fidel: http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2009/ing/f190309i.html