EXCLUSIVE: Members of the Association of Cuban Professional Baseball Players Provide Details about the Project

By Swing Completo/ contactos@swingcompleto.com

After the announcement this Thursday of the creation of the Asociación de Peloteros Cubanos Profesionales (Association of Cuban Professional Baseball Players) there has been a huge debate in all parts. It was an obvious reaction, mainly because the main objective now has to do with the creation of a team independent from the Cuban Baseball Federation (and, in consequence, from the Island’s government, for the World Baseball Classic next year.

Swing Completo, in whose platform this idea was pitched over a year ago, had an interaction this Friday with two of the main promoters of the project: Raisel Iglesias and Eddie Oropeza, who spoke over an hour and a half with anchorman Daniel de Malas.

Oropeza was the one providing the biggest details about the main ideas, given the fact that the former horler from Matanzas, who was part of the MLB, is member of the board of this imminent Association. It will be officialized next Tuesday in an event that will start at 4:00pm in the famous Versailles Restaurant in Miami.

“We want all Cubans who live outside of the island to join, because it is the only way to achieve each goal. After we have the backing of most people and a good organization, we will present a proposal to the MLB and the Players Union so we have a Cuban team independent from the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB, for its Spanish acronyms) to be able to play in the (World Baseball) Classic. We have to do it this way because it is the government of our own country the one that doesn’t want expats to play for the Cuban team,” said Oropeza.

On the topic, Raisel said he was concerned because many of the Cuban players today in the Majors are in their prime, and time continues to go by, and at any given time many of them will retire without having the opportunity to play for Cuba. “We feel hurt about the ridiculous and shameful performances every time Cuba plays an international tournament. And we have to do our best to change that image any way we can. They don’t want us to play (for Cuba) in the Classic… well, we need to find an alternative. This independent Cuba is the only solution,” said the star reliever for the Los Angeles Angels.

Most of those connected to our news segment showed absolute support for the initiative and some fans interacted live to express it directly in front of the two project members who took part in the second morning segment of Swing Completo.

Oropeza spoke about other ideas related to such Association, which he considered to be long overdue as something extremely necessary for Cuban players and baseball in general.

“We want to build academies to provide employment to many of the veterans who are underused all over the place. We want to help those battling difficulties in Cuba and those who are struggling outside of Cuba as well. There is also intention of, outside of the WBC, creating a team or a league gathering active players and old timers and also having the presence of Cuban fans. The objective is to join the Cuban community in exile even more throughout baseball,” said the former MLB pitcher with Arizona, San Diego and Los Angeles.

According to the Matanzas southpaw, there are several important baseball people who will be present next Tuesday in the meeting in which the Association will be officialized, but many others will have work issues (Spring Training and others) that will keep them from attending but have agreed to be part of this initiative and support it in any way possible.

There were many well-known names mentioned as having some leadership in this project: Orlando “El Duke” Hernández, René Arocha and Euclides Rojas, with entrepreneur Mario Hernández as a main player in this event. Hernández is an entrepreneur who has had a crucial link with the baseball community in Florida for several years.

Oropesa and Raisel clarified other topics related to the Association, although it is very clear that many answers will come after the organization comes into shape following its officialization next Tuesday.

About the topic that people have spoken the most about and which will be for now the main objective of this Association in the immediate future, the Independent Cuban Team for the WBC, there is still a mixture of uncertainty, doubts and issues.

Cuba qualified for the fifth installment of such tournament with the Cuban Baseball Federation as the ruler for the national team, so we will have to see up to what extent this condition might have a certain degree of importance for the organizers, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Baseball and Softball Confederation. The latter, by the way, has had a very solid relationship with Cuban authorities, and have historically yielded to the demands of the FCB.

Two teams of the same country would be something completely exclusive of Cuba, in case they sustain the right of the FCB to have its own representative while also including an option of a team with players that are not admitted by the Federation despite having been born in the island. Anyway, a team of Cuban expats would have to get involved in the WBC qualifiers that are normally established by a world ranking where only the results of FCB-led Cuban baseball will count.

Many people agree that a strong pressure, both by the population and the new entity might change reality and give Cuba the possibility of improving the country’s image as a National Team and struggle for a result that matches the enormous individual talent Cuban baseball has today.

“Everything is done step by step. But we need to start one day, because it is almost the last possibility we have to do something good in the WBC. for the next tournament we might even have lost direct qualification. We not only have to try it, we must also put pressure relentlessly, joined by all of those who love Cuban baseball. Nothing is impossible,” said Oropesa, who, like Iglesias, thanked Swing Completo for the full support at all times, not only for the initiative of the organization, but also for what is done in favor of Cuban baseball.

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