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Luis Giraldo Casanova Castillo
(El Señor Pelotero)
Luis Casanova played in the Cuban National League and appeared in multiple international baseball events. He has also managed in the Cuban National League as well. He led 7 major international tournaments in home runs, over half of the competitions he appeared in, a mark likely unmatched in the history of international baseball. Casanova's teams won many titles in Cuban league play and he led the league in all three Triple Crown statistics at least once.
Casanova made his debut on the international stage in the 1978 Central American and Caribbean Games; the 21-year-old outfielder helped the Cuban national team win a Gold Medal, going 20 for 33 and tying for the most doubles (5); in one of the highest-scoring events ever, he was over 100 points behind Antonio Muñoz for the average lead.
In the 1978 Amateur World Series, Casanova hit .444/.500/.806 with 12 runs and eight RBI in ten games. He was second in the tournament in batting average behind Roberto Espino. His 3 homers tied for 4th, behind Muñoz, Tim Wallach and Ernesto Lopez. He tied for the most hits with 16. He had no errors and one assist from right field. Cuba won Gold.
In the 1979 Pan American Games, Luis had 13 hits in 35 at-bats to hit .371 and help Cuba win Gold. He tied Terry Francona for the most triples (3) and tied Francona and Agustin Marquetti for the most hits. In the 1979 Intercontinental Cup, Casanova hit .375 as Cuba cruised to victory.
Casanova had his first huge season in domestic play in Cuba in the 1979-1980 Serie Nacional, leading in runs (64) and walks (57). He tied for the most sacrifice flies (5) and his 18 home runs tied Pedro José Rodríguez, Sr. for the most.
Casanova tied Antonio Muñoz for the 1980 Amateur World Series lead in home runs with seven as Cuba won Gold. In the 1981 Serie Nacional season, Casanova led the league with 9 times hit by pitch. In the Selective Series of 1981, he hit .363, leading the league in batting average. He also tied for the league lead in triples, with four. During the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, Casanova's Cuban team failed to win Gold for the first and only time of his career; it was not his fault, as he went 19 for 37 and led in average (.514), home runs (6), runs (12), hits (15) and RBI (19). Casanova won MVP honors though the USA took home the Gold Medal.
In the 1982 Selective Series, he led the league in runs scored with 49. He also tied for the league lead in triples, with four. It was the only year from 1978-1986 that Casanova did not play on the international stage, as Cuba sat out the 1982 Amateur World Series. During the 1982-1983 Serie Nacional, Luis tied Alejo O'Reilly for the most walks, with 34.
Casanova batted .389 in a backup role in the 1983 Intercontinental Cup, as Cuba won Gold. In the 1983-1984 Serie Nacional, the 27-year-old veteran tied Lázaro Junco for the league lead in home runs, with 20. He tied for the most doubles (19) and led with 67 RBI. That won him the MVP award, the only time he took home that honor for a Serie Nacional. In the 1984 Selective Series, he hit .391, leading the league.
In the 1984 Amateur World Series, Casanova hit .364/.419/.727 with 6 home runs, 12 runs and 15 RBI in 13 games. He tied Pedro José Rodríguez and Roberto Bianchi for the home run lead, tied Bianchi for third in hits (20) and tied Muñoz for third in RBI. Casanova helped Cuba to Gold; among those he outslugged was American Barry Bonds. He was to appear in the 1984 Olympics, but did not because Cuba boycotted them.
Casanova batted .429 in the 1985 Intercontinental Cup, which he led in home runs (6) and RBI (19).
During the 1986 Amateur World Series, Casanova hit .409 with a tournament-leading 19 RBI and six home runs to help Cuba win Gold. He tied Italy's Giuseppe Carelli for most RBI. In the 1986 Central American and Caribbean Games, the outfield superstar hit .500 and led the tournament with 16 runs scored. Cuba claimed another Gold.
Casanova made the All-Star outfield in the 1987 Intercontinental Cup as Cuba won it all. In the 1987 Pan American Games, El Señor Pelotero hit .433 with four home runs and 12 runs scored to help Cuba take Gold.
In the 1988 Baseball World Cup, he led the tournament in home runs with seven while hitting .392/.446/.863 with 15 runs and 21 RBI in 13 games. He tied Tino Martinez for second in the tournament in RBI, behind Robin Ventura's 32. He was 4th with 20 hits. Casanova had two assists and no errors in right field. He made the tournament All-Star team, joining Lourdes Gourriel Sr. and Daisuke Tsutsui in the outfield. Though Cuba won Gold, the US's Martinez beat out Casanova for MVP honors despite a worse OPS.
In the 1990 Baseball World Cup, Casanova hit .462/.556/1.154 with eight RBI and three home runs in five games, splitting right field action with Ermidelio Urrutia. He hit all of his home runs in a single game, becoming only the second person to hit three home runs in a Baseball World Cup game (the other was Antonio Muñoz, who did it in 1980); Sharnol Adriana would become the third such player in 2003. Casanova did not accomplish the feat against a patsy team, either, doing it against South Korea, which won the Bronze Medal that year. Casanova had led five straight Amateur World Series/Baseball World Cups he competed in in home runs (1980, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990), an unprecedented feat which is unlikely to be matched anytime soon. He played in the 1990 Goodwill Games.
In the 1991 Intercontinental Cup, Casanova tied Prospero Baca and Wei-Cheng Chen for second in the tournament in RBI, with 12, as Cuba won yet another Gold. Furthermore, he hit .364/.489/.758 with nine walks, ten runs and four home runs in 11 games. He was second in home runs, one behind Jose Ramon Padilla.
Overall, Casanova hit .322/.443/.569 in 17 seasons in Cuba. He belted 312 homers in 5,288 AB, scored 1,144 runs, drove in 1,069 runs and coaxed 1,049 walks. Through the 2004-2005 Serie Nacional, he was among Cuba's all-time leaders in runs (8th), home runs (6th), slugging (third behind Omar Linares and Orestes Kindelan), times hit by pitch (8th, 147), walks (7th) and intentional walks (173, 4th).
In the 2008-2009 Cuban National League, Casanova managed Pinar del Rio to a second-place finish, three games behind La Habana. They finished with a 54-36 record. It was Luis's Cuban managerial debut, having previously been a coach in Cuba following his playing career.