By Jerry Díaz/ @jerryto94
The creation of the Association of Cuban Professional Baseball Players with the main goal of participating in the World Baseball Classic has triggered criteria from all sorts.
The recent statement made by José Abreu to Ernesto Jerez of ESPN assuring not willing to be in “the team of Miami” but offering his services for a team “with the ones from here and there” out of respect for his fellow players in Cuba, made many people doubt the real objective of the Association.
On March 25, Orlando “El Duque” Hernández brought some clarity on the subject in the show “Me Gustan los Deportes” (I Like Sports), ran by former Puerto Rican MLB player Carlos Baerga.
Words by Orlando “Duque” Hernández
“We have a chat room that includes over 60 players. Many of them are not informed or haven’t gotten the news the right way. First thing we said with the Association was to respect everyone’s opinion.”
Then he said:
“We want to avoid being forgotten. We have been ostracized by many and separated from the possibility of participating with the Cuban national team. That’s why we want to create a team. I believe it is great and valuable that these guys who have quality participate in a Major League Baseball event.
“These guys are MLB workers, why can’t they participate if Cuba doesn’t want them? We have never said anything about kicking the Cuban national team from all the events. We don’t want to take anyone out. We just want to play. This is not about eliminating the players who are in Cuba.”
He continued by saying:
“Orlando Hernández is from Cuba, he became a ballplayer in Cuba and he has a lot of respect for Cuban coaches. There is quality there, what they lack is the conditions to develop.
“This is no game or charade. We are just looking for the opportunity for the guys in the Big Leagues and the Minors to participate in the best baseball event after the MLB season and postseason.
“We are not requesting that they exclude Cuba, we are asking to become an independent Cuba.”
“There are many people who are afraid of losing their permission to enter Cuba. José Martí once said: ‘I’d rather be a slave in foreign land than be one in my land. I will never taint my soil asking for permission to leave or less enter my homeland.’ Baerga, do you have to ask for permission to enter Puerto Rico?”
El Duque went on:
“Grandal is part of the Association. I know Nick Castellanos’s father, a doctor, and a heck of a Cuban. I am sure Castellanos will not say no. Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, also has Cuban roots and I was told he wants to be there. What I mean is, we are not joking here, it is a team to compete. Doors are not going to be closed to anyone here, one day you can say no, but later you can say yes.
“Many players who are members of the Association are saying: ‘I know I have no room in this team, but I am not doing it for myself. I am doing it for the Cubans.’ We are not again the players in Cuba, we are against participating with the government.”
Then he added:
“Baseball is unity, not separation. It is time for all Cubans to unite. We are receiving many messages of Latino athletes. None of them is bothered by Cuba having a better team, what they want is to see the best players playing in the World Baseball Classic.
“We are going to have exhibition games with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic… those games are going to be played no matter what, because in case our request is not approved we will have to show MLB what they are missing.
“In a one-to-ten scale we are at nine of accomplishing it. Number 10 would be if (MLB Commissioner) Rob Manfred and (MLBPA President) Tony Clark say yes. It would be a shame if it was not accepted.”
He brought another argument:
“If you ask around Cuba who Tony Oliva is, most people don’t know, and he is a Hall of Famer. We want Cubans not to be forgotten.
“The Commissioner has to know that the American League Batting Champion is not allowed in his country.”
“The Association is not against Cuban players, we are standing up for our rights. We don’t want Cuba out, we want room for both.”