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"Are you blind? I'm on the field right now!"
March 6, 2013 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Victor Mesa is the 2013 World Baseball Classic Cuban team manager.

In three games, the Cubans have beaten Brazil, China and Japan. The China game was a shutout played in front of an empty stadium which included such hijinks as the Cubans telling a Chinese player a ball was foul and then tagging him out when he took their word for it.

The Japan game was nearly a shutout until a late-game rally in front of 23,000 Japanese fans overnight.

Mesa has been, by far, the most entertaining single presence across the series. The Cubans' next game is Friday March 8 against the Netherlands and thereafter likely to be a Cuba-Japan rematch on March 10, all of this still in Japan.

From the link:

Mesa played for 19 seasons in the Cuban National Series. He stole 52 bases at age 35 – in a 90 game season. Known for his “showmanship,” Mesa was once ejected from a game for pimping a home run too hard. Not only would he regularly steal home but he would yell at the opposing pitcher while he was doing it. This made him wildly popular with Villa Clara fans.

In 2008, Vanity Fair took a look at the Cuban League with "Commie Ball."

(Cuban ball previously, WBC previously on MetaFilter)
posted by mwhybark (10 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
That made me seriously excited to watch the WBC and to make sure to see some Cuba games when they make their way to North America for the next round. Thanks!
posted by dry white toast at 6:26 PM on March 6, 2013


Basketball rules everything forever in China in terms of professional team sports, but I was surprised to see baseball as such a no-show, especially considering how into it their regional rivals Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are... on the other hand, the super-power next door, Russia, is all about soccer as the summer sport.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:39 PM on March 6, 2013


Despite Mesa's entertainment quotient and the Cuban hitting power on display, for me the clear highlight of the Cuba-Japan game was Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, who has struggled in the WBC this year, striking six men out consecutively across the 4th and the 5th (video link to MLB, will autoplay through a list if not tended).

If I recall correctly Tanaka has announced his intent to exercise his 7th-year eligibility for international free agency in 2014 (when he will obviously join his former Rakuten teammate Hisashi Iwakuma and Seattle's pride, Felix Hernandez, for the Mariners' first World Series championship).
posted by mwhybark at 6:45 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, that China game was terrifying. During the section of the came where all the tomfoolery went down, at one point an umpire had to run over to the mound to explain some basic rules to the Chinese pitcher, poor kid.
posted by mwhybark at 6:47 PM on March 6, 2013


Not only would he regularly steal home but he would yell at the opposing pitcher while he was doing it.

Brass balls and fleet feet, I tell you.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:52 PM on March 6, 2013


Hughson has a roundup post for WBC up too and has written about a different Cuban Mesa in the past as well.
posted by mwhybark at 6:58 PM on March 6, 2013


Is there some kind of baseball themed tour of Cuba that could be done in a way that bypasses the embargo restrictions? Like see the main teams play, enjoy the stadium atmosphere.
posted by humanfont at 8:39 PM on March 6, 2013


Funny you should ask, the answer is sorta (except for the embargo restrictions part, as I understand it).

Looks like there are other providers as well, but the sites I uncovered were all for past trips. I'm only semi-up on the embargo restrictions, but my general understanding is that you should verify your eligibility for the trip or your strategy for making the trip despite ineligibility before trying to jump on a plane.

This is a topic that comes all the time in my house because my wife is Cuban, born in the US and therefore a US citizen but Cuban, and there are inscrutable variations in the rules for us as a result.
posted by mwhybark at 9:38 PM on March 6, 2013


There is also a tour from the SABR folks as well, but that is also using a back-door way to get in to Cuba. From what I can tell, the Smithsonian tours, while sanctoned by the US Treasury Dept, do not include any baseball.

My favorite anecdote involving Cuban baseball players involves Branch Rickey approaching a Cuban player, the great Silvio Garcia, to see if he would help to break the color barrier in the USA:

"In the 1940s, when the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, started thinking about bringing a black player to the major leagues, he initially considered the star Cuban shortstop of the day, Silvio García. According to Edel Casas, the noted Cuban baseball historian, Rickey met with García in Havana in 1945 to explore the possibility of bringing the excellent right-handed hitter to the Dodgers. In the course of the interview, Rickey asked García, “What would you do if a white American slapped your face?” García’s response was simple and sincere. “I kill him,” he said."
posted by roquetuen at 9:52 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The China game was a shutout played in front of an empty stadium which included such hijinks as the Cubans telling a Chinese player a ball was foul and then tagging him out when he took their word for it.

I realize that the Cubans were really taking advantage of ill-informed Chinese players here, but taken at face value this is kind of awesome in the same way that old timey baseball, with it's prohibitions against stealing bases because the practice is "ungentlemanly" is awesome. Clearly baseball, like any sport, needs more tomfoolery.

Also, this:

“When it rains,” says Kit, “I’ve seen the players just come into the stands and sit with the fans until it stops.”
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:18 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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