Cuba Culture

Cuba hoping to recover Olympic Baseball title in Athens

Posted June 14, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Culture.


CUBA is hoping to win back the baseball gold medal in Athens with a team that has been revitalized since the last Olympic Games, according to Higinio Velez, technical coach of the Cuba squad.

Talking to Granma International, Velez explained that the pre-selection squad of 33 players - of whom just four were in Sydney - is powerful, with solid pitching, good batting skills and versatile.

“It’s a difficult challenge because in our country we can’t come home without the gold medal, it’s our national sport,” explained the manager.

“We are combining experience with young talent,” added Velez, who has managed the team for the last three years, and brought it triumph at the 2001 and 2003 World Championships, the 2002 Intercontinental Cup, the Pan-American Games and the pre-Olympic tournament in 2003.

With an average of 26, the group is made up of three catchers, nine basemen, seven fielders and fourteen pitchers and closed preparations are set to begin this Saturday in the city of Ciego de Avila, some 450 kilometers east of Havana.

Velez expressed his confidence in the “control, speed and depth” of the 14 pitchers, with “mainstays” Norge Luis Vera, Vicihoandry Odelín, Pedro Luis Lazo and left-hander Adiel Palma.

Completing the group of pitchers are right-handers Jonder Martínez, Deinys Suárez, Frank Montieth, Valeri García, Luis Borroto, Danny Betancourt and Manuel Vega, as well as left-handers, Francisley Bueno, Norberto González and Wilber Perez.

Hitters include fielder Osmany Urrutia with a 400-plus average in the national series; Yoandri Urgelles, 399; as well as Federich Cepeda, Carlos Tabares, Yorelvis Fiss, Roger Poll and Juan M. Miranda.

On base are Michel Enríquez, Antonio Scull, Loidel Chapellí, Yulieski Gourriel, Alexei Ramírez, Yorelvis Charles, Eduardo Paret and Luis M. Navas.

And finally catchers Ariel Pestano, Roger Machado and Eriel Sánchez.

In July and in preparation for Athens, a smaller team of 24 players will travel to Japan to take part in a tournament against that country’s national team on the 13th and 14th, as well as other scheduled clashes.

The Cuban team’s preparations conclude with a round robin in Italy where, in addition to the host nation and Cuba, Chinese Taipei and Holland are also set to take part.

Only four players who took part in the Sydney Games are included in this year’s pre-selection squad: first baseman Antonio Scull, catcher Ariel Pestano and pitchers Norge Luis Vera and Pedro Luis Lazo.

During the Olympic final in Sydney 2000, the United States beat Cuba 4-0 but there won’t be a rematch in Athens as the United States failed to qualify for the tournament in Greece.

Cuba won the Olympic title in both Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996.

Besides Cuba, Australia, Canada, Greece, Holland, Italy, Japan and Chinese Taipei are also competing in Athens.

Member Comments

On June 15, 2004, publisher wrote:

Interesting, the US did not qualify. Does that mean the United States won’t be playing baseball at the Olympics?