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2015 Toronto: All Eyes on Cuban Baseball

2015 Toronto: All Eyes on Cuban Baseball

Posted by Miguel Ernesto on May 17, 2015

Cuban baseball will try to recover in Toronto something it held during four decades: the Pan-American Games title. That’s the only aim of the team to be directed by Victor Mesa, but climbing to the return game is going to be very complicated, since the tournament will be attended by highly competitive teams, such as Canada—the present champion—, United States and the Dominican Republic.

Four years ago, in the Pan-American edition held in Guadalajara, Cuba was defeated by the United States in the semifinals, thus breaking its chain of 10 titles in a row, which kicked off in Cali Games, back in 1971. In the duel for the gold medal, carried out on Mexican soil, Canada let the United States in the field, 2 - 1, as a result of the great performance of pitchers Andrew Albers and Scott Richmond: it was the first time the country stood as a Pan-American champion. This time around, as the local team, the Canadians coached by Ernie Whitt can be described as favorites to win the competition.

According to Whitt, they will try to call the best baseball players they have available, specifically those with international experience. “These tournaments are totally different from playing a regular season. It’s almost a playoff atmosphere, where every game counts”. Whitt, who was the catcher of Toronto’s Blue Jays, said that his list of managers will include such veteran baseball players (retired) as Larry Walker, Stubby Clapp, Denis Boucher and Paul Quantrill.

Cuba has already announced that it’s going to participate in Toronto Pan-American Games with its finest baseball players, including those who have been hired by foreign leagues, in other words, the three sportsmen that are playing in Japan (Alfredo Despaigne, Frederich Cepeda and Hector Mendoza), plus three out of the four that have joined Quebec’s Capitals in Canada’s Independent League (Ismel Jimenez, Yordan Manduley and Alexei Bell). Among the possible Cuban athletes to go to the Pan-American Games we can mention Yuliesky Gourriel, who is described as the most complete baseball player of the island nation.

The baseball tournament has triggered expectations among fans, especially after MLB gave the green light for players from Minor Leagues, who are not included in MLB’s payroll, to compete in Toronto. The restored President’s Choice Stadium —the venue of the games— is going to witness how seven teams play by following the all-vs.-all system. The first four positions will play for the medals.Every single team that is going to participate in the Pan-American Games has been on the podium at least once. Cuba is the leader, with 12 gold medals, totaling 14; meanwhile, United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic have one crown. Moreover, Nicaragua holds two silver medals and one bronze, and Colombia has one bronze medal.

According to Saäd Rafi, executive director of the Games, in statements given to the official website of the Pan-American Games, “2015 Toronto is going to be very exciting for Canadian baseball enthusiasts, since the best talents from the whole American continent will be playing in our region.”

DEBUT OF THE GIRLS

Women’s baseball is going to make its debut in Toronto and this tournament is certainly going to be very interesting, not only to see girls fighting for a Pan-American title, but because of the presence of three teams that occupy excellent positions in the ranking: United States (current world number two), Canada and Venezuela. The list also includes Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The manager of the Canadian team, Andre Lachance, says that Toronto is going to live a special tournament, especially for local players. “All games are hard, but we’re looking forward to winning the gold medal”, the manager expressed.

Just like in the men’s competition, the girls will face each other with the same system. Only the fifth position will be eliminated, because the first four teams are going to play for medals.

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