Havana Cuba. — “Since they give them a milestone, yes total!” My neighbor Mario exclaimed indignantly when he saw the gifts and recognitions delivered by the provincial authorities to the Cuban baseball players who returned to the island once the V World Baseball Classic ended.
The diploma thing was already known; but Mayito did not believe the postcard with the face of Vilma Espín that they gave to the pitcher Frank Abel Alvarezand much less to the supposed sculpture —a stick flag— delivered to Yeudis Reyes, also a pitcher, so that in the near future there is no shortage of termites in his house.
Sports officials and politicians, as well as mass organizations, have exceeded all levels of bad taste and even insult, because these “gifts” are like complexes and regret to the marrow for having returned to this sewer after having been at the very heart of Cuban emigration, in the country that has offered the most opportunities to the children of this land.
It’s a challenge trying to guess what was going through the minds of the Team Asere players as they held those trinkets in their hands. It is inevitable to wonder if they have any idea how ridiculous they looked showing the photo of a woman who had nothing to do with sports. And still some criticize them when they make the decision to stay anywhere.
The Cuban bureaucrats celebrate the fourth place obtained in the Classic as if it were an Olympic gold medal, they do everything possible to turn the setback into a victory, and finally they give away to the athletes any piece of table that seems taken from a Tareco Plan.
Major League Baseball (MLB), on the other hand, will pay $25,600 to each Cuban player who participated in the Classic, according to the journalist Francys Romero. The difference is so enormous that it is not really understood why they go to Cuba, or to what. Any National Series player could earn a decent salary teaching Florida kids how to play baseball.
A couple of years ago, the photo of the assortment of food, the oil bottle, the personal hygiene module and the packages of sausages that the provincial authorities gave, as a welcome and reward for his effort, to the boxer went viral. Ronnis Alvarez, gold medalist in a Pan American event. It was a very clear message of the hunger that, then and now, is happening in Cuba, but for the ideologues of this government it is a source of pride to receive a high-performance athlete in the same way that the aborigines received the Spaniards. The only difference is that the Cubans of the 21st century harvest much less than the natives.
For the Clásico players there was not a single hand of banana, although it is rumored that they are happy because they have allowed each one to import a sack of rice from the United States; a grain of extra quality, as befits those champions who, after having known abundance during their performance in foreign leagues, have to return to the drip of the jama, to throw forward the little money from the MLB —if they can pay—into the bottomless pit of the socialist economy.
The “spontaneous” reception of the Cuban team, which was preceded by calls identical to those used for the marches of the combatant people, or the national elections that will take place on Sunday, March 26, are the definitive test —in case someone need it—of the extent to which the issue of Team Asere and its participation in the V World Baseball Classic has become politicized.
“You are going to see that no one is going to go to the next call. These people (the regime) spoil everything (…) The discomfort of the players shows the discomfort on their faces. They know that these political acts are a tremendous piece of paper, but they cannot be denied, because they escape. Let’s see what Vilma Espín has to do with the ball (…) They keep talking about victory, as if Cuba had swept the Clásico. These people are really in a bad way,” says Joaquín, another neighbor, already old, who enjoyed the good years of Cuban baseball and stopped watching the National Series a long time ago, tired of seeing so much bungling on the field.
Old Joaquín is absolutely right. However, seen from a purely practical point of view, it was indeed a victory for the Cuban baseball players. The United States swept the ground with them in the semifinals, but they came loaded with trash, because that’s what they really went for. Jama buena y cocotilla were the goals of Team Asere. Mission accomplished.
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