Saturday, February 3, 2007

A Cuban Affair

I fell in love last year.

Pieces of the torrid affair turned up when I was cleaning out old magazines.

Newspaper clippings, rosters, stats and notes stuffed in a scorecard from the World Baseball Classic are all that’s left. There are some clips about Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Some more about how special it was for Johnny Damon to play for his country. But my real affair didn’t start until the United States was eliminated.

The Cubans caught my eye with heart and daring, and they pulled me along on an amazing ride. They beat Venezuela and held on against Puerto Rico before advancing past the Dominicans in a game started by Yadel Marti and finished by Pedro Luis Lazo.

I will never forget Lazo’s gloved-hand punching a hole in the sky as his teammates piled on. The great Pedro Luis Lazo carrying his team to another championship game. They had ridden him from the 1996 Olympics, to the 2005 World Cup and to all the wins for the Pinar del Rio Cigar Makers. He had long been Cuba’s best and now he was just the best. Period.

Because of rules to protect Major League pitchers, Lazo was not able to play in the championship game. The Cubans made a valiant comeback but lost to Japan. My scorecard says 10 to 6. No Lazo, but a bunch of great players I came to love:

Eduardo Paret, shortstop.
Michel Enriquez, third baseman.
Yulieski Gourriel, second baseman.
Ariel Borrero, first baseman.
Frederich Cepeda, leftfielder.
Osmani Urrutia, rightfielder.
Yoandy Garlobo, designated hitter.
Ariel Pestano, catcher.
Alexei Ramirez, centerfielder.
And starting pitcher, Ormari Romero.

It was a beautiful affair.


RollingWave said...

I really wish we could one day see Lazo pitch in the states.

I saw him again a few month back when he played in the IBAF tournament in Taiwan, the Cubans won... again, only the Taiwanese team really gave them a little trouble during the way (Taiwan team would beat the crap out of the competition in the Asian games tour just a couple weeks after that)

Todd Drew said...

Lazo is a great competitor and a treat to watch.