Cuban National League
The Cuban National League is the league system of Cuba and is governed by the Cuban Baseball Federation. It currently has a national provincial championship, the Serie Nacional, a super-provincial series, the Súper Liga, which aids in the selection of the Cuban national baseball team, and seven other leagues. It was founded in 1962 after the abolition of the country's professional league by Fidel Castro in 1961.
All of the players are amateurs and play for the provinces in which they were born in or reside with all provinces of Cuba represented by teams.
The Serie Nacional (National Series) currently has sixteen teams organized into two zonas (zones), Occidental and Oriental, which are in turn split into two grupos (groups). Each of Cuba's 14 provinces has a team as does the special municipality Isla de la Juventud, with Ciudad de La Habana having two clubs, for a total of sixteen teams.
The league has a 90-game schedule which runs from November though April. Each team plays each other team six teams. The season is then followed by a 3-tiered of playoff that culminates in a national championship. An all-star game, between the league's zonas, has been played since the 1997-1998 season, although it had been played in earlier seasons. In the past, the winning team has played versus a teams from the Mexican League. This series has been played each winter since 1962.
At the end of the regular season in mid-April, the three-round playoffs begin. Eight teams qualify for the playoffs, split into two brackets by zona. The two grupo winners in each zona quaIify along with two wildcard teams, which are the two non-grupo winners with the best records. The first Cuartos de final series, the grupo winner with the best record plays versus the wildcard team with the worst record, while the other in the matchup has the other grupo winner playing the best wildcard team. All series in this round are best-of-five. The winners meet in the Semifinals to determine the zona champion; this round is best-of-seven. The winners of the Semifinals then play versus each other in the best-of-seven Final to determine the league champion.
Each team is allowed to have thirty players on its roster with nearly all of the players from the team's home province. There are no foreigners allowed in the league, no free agency, and very little player movement as all player contracts are signed with the league rather than the individual team. In rare instances, a player may be granted a transfer in instances, such as family relocation. Salaries range between the equivalent of US$120 and US$175 per month, with an average of US$135, paid in pesos (which unlike the convertible peso has no value outside Cuba). Players at the very top are sometimes rewarded with luxuries from the government, such as homes; although examples of this are few.
The Cuban baseball system is designed as much to develop the nation's athletic talents as to provide entertainment to the public. Children showing athletic promise are sent to sports academies for extensive competitive training and development, with the goal of developing the nation's athletes. Some players are able to make the municipal team and advance through the sport without training in the academies, but those players are exceptional. Although players are amateurs, elite players are subsidized and given special rewards. A problem confronting Cuba's top athletes, however, is the lack of opportunities to compete against the best players in the world. An opportunity for competition against the world's best professional players was finally made available by the World Baseball Classic first held in March 2006.
The Serie Nacional (National Series) currently has sixteen teams, divided into two zonas which are in turn split into two grupos. although as recently as 1992 there were eighteen teams.
Unlike most leagues, Serie Nacional teams have no official nicknames but are instead named for their province, with the two Ciudad de La Habana teams being the notable exceptions. However, over the years "unofficial" nicknames and mascots have been attached by local fans or media organizations and are now increasingly found in the Cuban press. It is also common for a team to have more than one nickname simultaneously.
- The special municipality of Isla de La Juventud was known as Isla de Pinos until 1978, therefore the Pinar del Río team played the 1977-1978 season as Isla de Pinos.
The Súper Liga is an all-star super-provincial competition usually played from May through July with a schedule of about 28 games. The Serie Nacional's top 125 players are placed on five teams, based on their home province, and compete in a seven-game round-robin competetion. After the round robin the top two teams play in a best-of-three playoff to determine championship team. Only players selected to play in the Súper Liga may be selected to play on Cuban national baseball team. The league's five regional teams are (with provinces):
- Centrales: Camagüey, Ciego de Ávila, Cienfuegos, Santi Spíritus, Villa Clara
- Habana: La Habana, Industriales, Metropolitanos
- Occidentales: Isla de Juventud, Matanzas, and Pinar del Rio
- Orientales: Gramma, Guantánamo, Holguín, and Las Tunas
- Santiago de Cuba: Santiago de Cuba
Liga de Desarrollo
The Liga de Desarrollo (also known as the 2da Categoría) is a developmental league that occurs between the Campeonato Provincial and the Serie Nacional. The league plays from late August to early November and its primarily for young prospects. Each of Cuba's 14 provinces has a team as does the special municipality Isla de la Juventud, with Ciudad de La Habana having two clubs, for a total of sixteen teams. The league's players are not top prospects as those players would be brought up to the Serie Nacional at a young age. Like the Serie Nacional, the sixteen teams organized into two zonas (zones), Occidental and Oriental, which are in turn split into two grupos (groups).
The top two teams from each grupo qualify for the three-round playoffs in late October and early November; each round is best-of-three. Each zona winner plays the second place team in the zona's other grupo. The winners play for the zona championship, with the winners playing for the league championship.
|Zona Occidental||Zona Oriental|
|Grupo A||Grupo B||Grupo C||Grupo D|
|Capitalinos||Ciudad de La Habana||Agropecuarios||La Habana||Agricultores||Ciego de Ávila||Arroceros||Santiago de Cuba|
|Pescadores||Isla de la Juventud||Constructores||Ciudad de La Habana||Cañeros||Las Tunas||Mineros||Holguín|
|Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Serranos||Sancti Spíritus||Granjeros||Camagüey||Salineros||Guantánamo|
The Campeonato Provincial (Provincial Championships) is run every summer in each Cuban province. Each of 15 provincial winners, plus a second team from Ciudad de La Habana, meet at the end of July to play in the playoffs in late July and early August to determine a national champion. The playoffs are three-rounds in length and best-of-three games.
|Octavos de final||Cuartos de final||Semifinal||Final|
|1||Ciudad de La Habana (First) versus La Habana||9||Winner 1
|2||Ciudad de La Habana (Second) versus Pinar del Río|
|3||Isla de la Juventud versus Matanzas||10||Winner 3|
|4||Cienfuegos versus Sancti Spíritus|
|5||Ciego de Ávila versus Villa Clara||11||Winner 5
|6||Camagüey versus Las Tunas|
|7||Granma versus Holguín||12||Winner 7|
|8||Guantánamo versus Santiago de Cuba|
Infantil and Juvenil
There are five other lower leagues based on age, with each of Cuba's fifteen province equivalents having a single team. These leagues are:
- Categoría 9-10: 9 to 10 year olds
- Categoría 11-12: 11 to 12 year olds
- Categoría 13-14: 13 to 14 year olds
- Categoría 15-16: 15 to 16 year olds
- Categoría Juvenil
At the close of the 1960-1961 Cuban Winter League season in March 1961, Fidel Castro's government decreed the abolition of professional baseball. The government had created the Instituto Nacional de Deportes, Educación Física y Recreación (INDER), translated as National Institute for Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation, earlier in the year on February 23. In the following month it legislated National Degree Number 936 which banned all professional sports competitions including the popular professional baseball league. The INDER was commissioned to hold a national amateur baseball championship, the Serie Nacional in the following year. During this early era, Martín Dihigo served as a technical advisor for the league while Gil Torres was the national team manager. Other notable coaches and managers were Asdrúbal Baró, Pedro Chávez, Juan Vistuer, and the national team's pitching coach - Pedro "Natilla" Jiménez. Conrado Marrero, a former Washington Senators pitcher, remained in Cuba where he was a pitching coach for several teams.
On January 14, 1962, the first Serie Nacional held its season opener at Havana's Estadio Latinoamericano with a game between Orientales and Azucareros. The leagues' four teams (Azucareros, Habana, Occidentales, and Orientales) played a 27-game season in the capital – similar setup to the no abolished professional league. Occidentales, managed by Fermín Guerra won the first Serie. In the early years of the league the Industriales (formerly Habana) led by Ramón Carneado captured four consecutive championships from 1963 to 1966 they became known as the premier Cuban team.
For the fifth Serie Nacional two teams were added the and two years later (1967-1968) six teams were added, doubling the size of the league. Two more teams were added in 1972-1973 and following the June 5, 1976 reorganization of Cuban provinces from six to fourteen and one special municipality, another two teams were added for the 1977-1978 season. This expansion of béisbol throughout the country was was accompanied by the construction of new stadiums in provincial capitals which transformed the Serie Nacional into a national league.
In addition to the Serie Nacional, throughout the history of the National League there have other top level competitions. The most common of these are super-provincial series, which including the Series Selectivas from 1974-1975 to 1995 and the current Súper Liga which was established in 2002. Seven All-Star Series were held between 1968 and 1979 along with two Copas de la Revolution in 1996 and 1997 and 1970's Serie 10 Millones.
A number of emigrants from Cuba (sometimes described as "defectors") have played for the major leagues since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Many of the island's professional baseball players emigrated to the United States in the 1959 and 1960 with visas. following the suspension of exit visas in January 1961 relatively few left Cuba for the next 30 years. On August 11, 1962 Enrique Hernández became the first Cuban baseball defector after the termination of visas. In 1980, Barbaro Garbey became the first player from the Cuban national team to leave the country in the Mariel boatlift. Since 1991, a number of prominent Cuban baseball players have emigrated. These players include:
- Rene Arocha, 1991
- Rolando Arrojo, 1996
- Danys Báez, 1999
- Yuniesky Betancourt, 2003
- Aroldis Chapman, 2009
- José Contreras, 2002
- Adrian Hernández, 2000
- Liván Hernández, 1995
- Orlando Hernández, 1997
- Hansel Izquierdo, 1993
- Kendry Morales, 2004
- Vladimir Nuñez, 1995
- Rey Ordóñez, 1993
- Edilberto Oropesa, 1993
- Ariel Prieto, 1994
- Alex Sanchez, 1994
Championships by Team
|Team||Record (Place)||Team||Record (Place)|
|I||2002||4||Habaneros||16 - 11 (1)||2 - 1||Centrales||16 - 11 (2)||Armando Johnson|
|II||2003||4||Centrales||13 - 7 (1)||2 - 1||Occidentales||11 - 10 (2)||Lourdes Gourriel Sr.|
|III||2004||4||Orientales||7 - 8 (2)||2 - 0||Industriales||10 - 5 (1)||Higinio Vélez|
|IV||2005||5||Occidentales||15 - 13 (2)||2 - 0||Centrales||16 - 10 (1)||Rey Anglada|
Liga de Desarrollo
Championships by Team
- Vegueros (Pinar del Río): 7 (1992-1993, 1993-1994, 1994-1995, 1995-1996, 1996-1997, 1997-1998, 1998-1999, 2004, 2005)
- Agropecuarios (La Habana): 1 (2004)
- Constructores (Ciudad de la Habana): 1 (2005)
|1992-1993||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1993-1994||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1994-1995||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1995-1996||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1996-1997||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1997-1998||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Juan Castro|
|1998-1999||Vegueros||Pinar del Río||Juan Castro|
|2004||Agropecuarios||La Habana||Fernando García|
|2005||Constructores||Ciudad de la Habana||José Luís Boss|
Championships by Team
- Guantánamo (Guantánamo): 4 (1995, 1998, 1999, 2003)
- Pinar del Río A (Pinar del Río): 3 (1992, 1993, 1994)
- Bayamo (Granma): 2 (2002, 2006)
- Las Tunas (Las Tunas): 2 (2000, 2001)
- 1ro de Enero (Ciego de Ávila): 1 (2004)
- Calixto García (Holguín): 1 (1996)
- Matanzas (Matanzas): 1 (1997)
- Pinar del Río (Pinar del Río): 1 (2005)
|Year||Champion (Province)||Runnerup (Province)||Champion Manager|
|1992||Pinar del Río A (Pinar del Río)||Calixto García (Holguín)||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1993||Pinar del Río A (Pinar del Río)||Morón (Ciego de Ávila)||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1994||Pinar del Río A (Pinar del Río)||Campechuela (Granma)||Alfonso Urquiola|
|1995||Guantánamo (Guantánamo)||Matanzas (Matanzas)||Epifanio Dominico|
|1996||Calixto García (Holguín)||Matanzas (Matanzas)||René Vera|
|1997||Matanzas (Matanzas)||Guantánamo (Guantánamo)||Armando Ferrer|
|1998||Guantánamo (Guantánamo)||Sancti Spíritus (Sancti Spíritus)||Epifanio Dominico|
|1999||Guantánamo (Guantánamo)||La Lisa (Ciudad de la Habana)||Francisco Acosta|
|2000||Las Tunas (Las Tunas)||Pinar del Río A (Pinar del Río)||Reinaldo Sabido|
|2001||Las Tunas (Las Tunas)||Caimito (La Habana)||Reinaldo Sabido|
|2002||Bayamo (Granma)||Yaguajay (Sancti Spíritus)||Ramón Rodríguez|
|2003||Guantánamo (Guantánamo)||Habana del Este (Ciudad de la Habana)||Epifanio Dominico|
|2004||1ro de Enero (Ciego de Ávila)||Boyeros (Ciudad de la Habana)||Jorge Domínguez|
|2005||Pinar del Río (Pinar del Río)||Calixto García (Holguín)||Primitivo Díaz|
|2006||Bayamo (Granma)||Jovellanos (Matanzas)||Ramón Rodríguez|
- Antonio Muñoz
- Antonio Pacheco
- Braudilio Vinent
- Carlos Alberto Yánes
- Enrique Esteban Díaz
- Euclides Rojas
- Evenecer Godínez
- Fernando Sánchez
- Javier Méndez
- Jorge Luis Valdés
- Lázaro de la Torre
- Lázaro Junco
- Luis Ulacia
- Omar Ajete
- Omar Linares
- Orestes Kindelán
- Rogelio García
- Romelio Martínez
- Víctor Mesa
- Wilfredo Sánchez
- Peter C. Bjarkman: A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864–2006, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2007.
- Roberto González Echevarría: The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball, Oxford University Press, 1999.
- The Cuban League at the SABR Bio Project
- Federación Cubana de Béisbol (in Spanish)
- (November 1, 2006). "Radiococo". COCO, El mejor sitio web de béisbol cubano. Radio Emisora Informativa y Deportiva de Ciudad de La Habana. Retrieved October 29, 2006.
- PBS Program: Stealing Home
- Baseball in Cuba
- Cuba Baseball: At a crisis stage?