By Yusseff Díaz
Despite the country’s history, these international players are willing to represent their homeland if given a chance.
When the rumor circulating in Cuba that the Cuban Baseball Federation is was deliberating on whether to allow international players affiliated with MLB teams to return and represent the country was confirmed by Cuba Olympic qualifier manager Armando Ferrer, Cuban players from all over the world lined up to play.
As per Bola Viva, a program on Cuban national television which first brought up the deliberations, but they might come with stipulations. According to the program, only players not affiliated with MLB would be allowed to be on the roster. These players supposedly would come from players that are on KBO, CPBL, NPB, and Mexican League rosters.
Various international players of Cuban lineage without ties to the FCB have said they are willing to play for a Cuban team but they aren’t on board with any restrictions placed upon the country.
I asked ex-Dodger farmhand and Mexican League slugger Yadir Drake about representing Cuba and he responded,” Yes, yes I want to represent Cuba but I don’t want any restrictions. I think it would benefit the people of Cuba to see the best 28 players on a unified team.
“Let’s be honest I have nothing against any player or anyone in the Federation, but those of us who have played in the exterior has faced better pitching and are more battle-tested. We hit against first level pitching every day and it would only benefit Cuba to have us on a team. I just want to be treated like any other player.” Drake was the only player allowed to play in the Pre-Olympic tournament of the ones that aren’t affiliated with the FCB.
Ex-Major Leaguer and Mexican League star Henry Urrutia also voiced his desire to represent his homeland, “Yusseff, we have had this conversation plenty of times. If they call me I have no problem representing Cuba, of course with the permission of my team. I’ve always wanted to represent my country. Had they given me more opportunities to represent Cuba, I might not have left. I’m 150% on board with representing my country.”
That’s a monumental commitment for the national team considering Urrutia hit .370 with 33 long balls and 100 runs batted in with the Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League in 2019.
Ferrer gave a meager excuse about not knowing what shape Urrutia was in as why he wasn’t included in the Pre-Olympic tournament. Urrutia disproved Ferrer’s theory by hitting over .400 to open the season and being named the player of the week two straight weeks in the Mexican League.
Ex-Cubs minor leaguer Rubi Silva who is a talented and experienced bat that Cuba could definitely use in their lineup reflected Urrutia’s sentiments when it comes to representing Cuba…
“I’m in accord with Henry 100%, but I want to be treated like a normal Cuban. I don’t want to be treated differently because I decided to leave the country in search of a better future. I’m willing to represent Cuba with the permission of my parent ball club. The day they call me I’m ready to go. Representing my country would be something beautiful.”
Unfortunately Cuba only allowed Drake to play with the team and gave very incoherent excuses why the others weren’t allowed to incorporate themselves with the national team. The team made a quick preliminary round exit after losing two of their first three games and not making the Olympic tournament for the first time ever.
Cuba could have fielded a more competitive lineup had they included these few pieces that weren’t affiliated with the Cuban Federation:
- Roel Santos CF
- *Yosmany Guerra 2B (Tigres de Quintana Roo)
- *Félix Pérez LF (Bravos de León)
- *Henry Urrutia 1B (Saraperos de Saltillo)
- *Yadir Drake RF (Leonés de Yucatán)
- *Ronnie Mustelier 3B ( Olmecas de Tabasco)
- Yosvani Alarcón C
- Erisbel Arruebarruena SS
- Yariel Rodríguez (Chunichi Dragons)
- Lázaro Blanco RHP
- Raul Valdés LHP (Toros del Este)*
- Carlos Juan Viera RHP (Saraperos de Saltillo)
- Yoanner Negrín RHP (Leonés de Yucatán)*
- *Yunesky Maya RHP (Águilas Cibañeas)
- Frank Abel Álvarez RHP
- *Jorge Martínez RHP (Toros del Este)
- Bryan Chi RHP
- Yosimar Cousin RHP
- Andy Rodríguez RHP (SoftBankHawks)
- Livan Moinelo LHP (SoftBank Hawks)
- Raidel Martínez LHP ( Chunichi Dragons)
- Yordanys Linares OF (Sultanes de Monterrey)*
- *Rubi Silva Util (West Virginia Power)
- *Alex Guerrero 3B/DH (Free agent)
- Lisbán Correa 1B/DH (Guerreros de Oaxaca)
- *Yadir Drake OF (Yucatán Lions)
- Iván Prieto C
- Yordan Manduley SS
*not affiliated with the Cuban Federation