Friday, December 27, 2013

What It's Like to Watch Béisbol in Cuba


(John W. Miller/The Wall Street Journey). I got to three games, all at the Estadio Latinoamericano, a 1946 ballpark a couple of miles southwest of Old Havana. It is the home of Industriales, winners of 12 championships, the Yankees of Cuba. I saw the best.

The Estadio is said to seat 55,000, but its size feels between minor- and major-league. A half-dozen stands outside sell beer and soda, and different meats on bread. The prices are pennies for locals, while tourists pay U.S.-level prices. (Cuba uses a dual-currency system to soak outsiders.)

The stadium bowl is symmetrical, like the cookie-cutter American parks of the 1960s, but without upper decks. The ramshackle press box hanging behind home plate looks like a stiff breeze could airlift it to Miami. There is no corporate marketing anywhere; no Budweiser or Coke signs. Only a bit of writing breaking up the blue: Beyond the left field fence, a sign hails "Cuba, Pais des Campiones." And in right: "El Deporte, Conquista De La Revolucion."

On the three nights that I went—one rainout and two Industriales wins—no one was allowed to sit in the outfield seats. I tried and was waved away by police. The crowds are predominantly young and male, and make up a sea of earrings, necklaces and gelled hair. (read full text)

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