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Cuba airs MLB game — a few weeks late

Published July 6, 2013 5:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Havana • Cubans got to watch something on their television screens this week that this baseball-crazed island hasn't seen in more than half a century: a Major League Baseball game broadcast in its entirety on the open airwaves.

But the early reviews were not overly enthusiastic. The game turned out to be a nearly 2-month-old matchup between two teams that boast none of the defected Cuban stars who islanders are most eager to follow.

Around 9:30 Sunday night, "Baseball International" cut to a full replay of the May 2 game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, which ended in a 3-1 Nationals win.

It was unlike a normal U.S. broadcast, stripped of commercials and lasting just an hour and a half or so. Cuban commentators provided play-by-play over the original English, which could be heard faintly in the background.

Baseball is just as much of a national pastime in Cuba as it is in the United States, but even die-hard fans mostly shrugged after watching.

"It's interesting to see how they play, but I can't say it thrilled me all that much because I don't know any of the players," said Diego Sierra, 67. "I would really like to see the Cubans, see how they are developing in that league, really see how well they are doing."

He was talking about homegrown talent like outfielder Yasiel Puig, who has posted a .413 batting average this year in 31 games played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, or fireballer Aroldis Chapman, a closer who's on pace for 40 saves with the Reds this year and who set a record in 2010 by throwing a ball 105 mph.

Defectors' names all but disappear from the official press once they leave Cuba, the trade-off for contracts that make them instant millionaires. Islanders rely on word of mouth, news from relatives abroad and videos passed around on pen drives and DVDs.