By Yusseff Díaz
HIALEAH, FLA- Cuban Baseball Federation president Higinio Vélez lost his nearly three week battle today with the dreaded COVID-19 virus. Less then four hours ago I received news from the island that confirmed the head of Cuban Baseball had lost his life at the age of 75. This comes on the heels of the loss of national commissioner Ernesto Reynoso to the same disease.
The native of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba passed at a Cuban Naval Hospital. Vélez seemed to be recuperating from the disease and was even taken of a ventilator, but today his health took a turn for the worst causing the former national team manager to perish.
The colorful and sometimes controversial head of the Cuban Federation will be remembered as a distinguished manager in the Serie Nacional, a league in which he won three street titles (’99-’01) with Santiago’s Red Wasps, a team that was nicknamed “The Steamroller”. In total he guided four Santiago teams to the promise land in Cuba.
The cagey skipper has also gained fame in the international arena, guiding national teams to gold medals in the 2003 Pan Am Games, 2004 Olympics, and was the runner-up in 2006 World Baseball Classic in what is arguably Cuba’s best performance in an international competition, because it was against MLB competition.
Higinio leaves a legacy of greatness and could possibly be deemed the best national manager of all-time. He also leaves the stigma of the being the architect of the decline of Cuban Baseball, because it happened under his watch. Although he was liked by a few he was also despised by many. Whether you liked him or not, there’s one thing you can’t deny about Vélez and that is that he was a winner between the lines.
The staff at Pelota Cubana would like to extend our condolences to his family and loved ones.