Oscar Sánchez Serra
ALL of Cuba is enjoying the
country’s most important sports celebration. Western
and Eastern Division champions for the 51st National
Series are being determined as this edition goes to
press, to set the stage for the finals.
Ciego de Avila, 450 kilometers east
of Havana, and Granma, the eastern province
approximately 800 km from the capital, are repeating
last year’s semi-final match-up, competing for the
Eastern Division title. On that occasion, Ciego de
Avila came out on top, winning the series, four
games to two.
In the West, Industriales, which has
won the most championships, with 12, will face the
sensation of the season, Matanzas – a team which
went from 14th place last year to being the first
team to qualify for the playoffs. This is an
unprecedented semifinal series.
Favorites? Ciego de Avila has the
most complete team, excellent defense, a versatile
offense and capable pitchers. This last element is
where the match-up is most even, since Granma has
the most powerful batting in the league, but a
defense which has frustrated their hopes of reaching
Industriales, with its mythical
status as the perennial team to beat, is a notch
above its opponent and has begun the play-offs at
its best. They are, however, facing a Matanzas led
by one of the most aggressive players in the history
of Cuban baseball, Victor Mesa, who doesn’t give, or
ask for, any margin of error.
Of the four, only Industriales has
won a national title. A new champion will emerge
from the play-offs this year; last year’s winners,
Pinar del Río, didn’t make it to the post-season.