By Yusseff Díaz
HIALEAH, FLA- Fréderich Cepeda is Cuban baseball royalty. The switch-hitting outfielder has been a key part of the powerhouse Cuban National Team for 15 years.
He is one of the most exceptional hitters to never come stateside. Although he has never played in the Majors he has definitely had his share of hits against big league pitching in the international arena, just ask Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka
The slugger is a key cog of the Sancti Spiritus Roosters lineup and was protection in the lineup for Yuli Gurriel for more than a decade in Cuba.
Cepeda has more than 2000 hits and 300 homeruns during his career in the National Series.
“It was a beautiful thing to hit my 300th homerun at my home park, reaching that milestone was something special”
Since Cuba switched to the wooden bat in 1999 Cepeda is only the second player to reach that milestone, Joan Carlos Pedroso only having hit with the wood.
A Caribbean King
When Cuba won the 2015 Caribbean World Series Cepeda was the reason why, that year he hit .471 and drove in seven runs taking home MVP honors.
He also was part of the all tournament team in 2018 when he batted .400 , went yard one time and also had a triple during the series.
In total Cepeda hits a whopping .438 during the Caribbean Classic and is vehemently feared by pitching in this tournament.
Conquering the World Baseball Classic
Cepeda is the only Cuban player to appear in all four tournaments for the other big red machine.
His bat was one of the keys in Cuba’s road to the final game in 2006. He also kept the Caribbean islanders in that game with timely hitting.
In the final game against Japan he drove in three and his late game roundtripper brought the Cubans within one of the team from the land of the rising sun.
Cuba eventually was defeated 10-6, but the bat of Cepeda kept them in the game.
Raking in the Mexican League
Cepeda had a brief incursion in the Mexican League with the Tijuana Toros hitting .274 during the season.
Where he earned his money his money was in the playoffs where hit .429 with three homeruns and eight runs batted in.
” I was only able to play 19 games during the regular season due to my late arrival in Mexico, because of problems with my visa. I hit my stride during the playoffs. There is a lot of quality pitching in that league. It is a hotly contested tournament, reminds a lot of Cuba.”
Although the Toros lost the series to the Monterrey Sultans the Antillean proved he was still a force to be reckoned with , even though he was 38 years old at the time.
Loving the game
Cepeda is a baseball purist and a very technical hitter. He is a student of the game, something sorely lacking in today’s National Series.
He is a better version of Kendrys Morales and in my opinion, for those who want a Major League comparison of his abilities as a hitter.
If it were up to him he would play baseball until father time tells him he can’t anymore, but he seems to have a lot left in the tank even at his advanced age.
“By the grace of God I’ve had a storied career. I’ve reached just about every goal I have set for myself. I still want to play as long as my health always me to do so. Playing baseball makes me feel good. I love the game.”