Iván Prieto is 27 years old. Born in Cuba, he made the national baseball team that represented his country at the World Baseball Classic, which ended yesterday at LoanDepot Park in Miami.

In Cuba, baseball is the undisputed national game. Children begin their charmed lives with a bottle of soda and a broom. The island’s economy and the communist regime imposed more than 60 years ago do not allow them access to basic gaming equipment; but, like life, baseball makes its way among its loyal devotees, and popular ingenuity is always looking for a way to release the passion for the game of ball.

During the Cuban National Series, which is the basis for the selection of the national team, the players travel around the country for months, and the tournament and the trips of the team and players are borne by “Revolution”.

In addition to providing daily meals and a monthly salary, the players save the cans of Coca Cola they receive in the accommodation to later sell dozens of them in an informal shop and thus earn extra money.

Only for the 2023 World Classic, the Cuban government allowed the “treasonous” players of the “Revolution” to play, who committed the sin of fleeing to the United States to sign with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams – the main professional baseball team in that country – and in addition, dignified by their efforts and talent, they look for better days for their families, and in many cases they remit dollars to their relatives living in Cuba. A few responded to the call.

(…) He didn’t return to the island, he stayed in Miami, for sure, with the certainty that he would be signed by an MLB team…

According to experts on this issue, this decision is a consequence of the government’s strategy of using the national team as a distracting and unifying factor, given the difficult economic situation the country is going through.

On the other side of the sea, the leadership in emigration put a lot of pressure on the big leaguers who agreed to play for their team, to “play into the hands of the dictatorship”.

Politics is once again putting its hooves into sports.

In such a polarized environment and accusations, the Cuban national team, to the joy of its citizens, advanced to the semi-finals, which it has not reached since 2006.

In the end, it lost its way to the finals against the United States national team, leaving the name of Cuban baseball very high, with the warning that in the end it is a team that does not even come close to representing the real Cuban potential, well, if the great players born in the country of José Martí went to the national team, the story would be different.

I began this column by quoting Iván Prieto, as the young baseball player this week joined the legions of Cuban baseball players fleeing in search of freedom and progress in the United States. He’s the only draft pick who didn’t return to the island, staying in Miami, safe, certain that he’ll be signed by an MLB team… and that he’ll be able to drink Coca Cola.

We hope that one day Cuba will be free again. We vote for it from this column. (OR)