THE GENESIS OF REVOLUTIONARY BASEBALL
Fidel instilled in us a passion for the sport -
Merencio Cautín (Photo and text by author)
GUANTÁNAMO.— Not even his inclusion
on the Cuban national team to play in the 1969 World
Championship in Santo Domingo left a greater mark on
Andrés Pilotaje Telemaco than January 14, 1962, the
day Fidel inaugurated the first Cuban National
Series in what is now the Latinoamericano Stadium,
and put an end to baseball for profit in the
"That event was the biggest thing
that happened to me as an athlete and as a person.
Imagine, I came from the neighborhood get-togethers,
the local clubs like Los Vaqueros, being next to
Fidel and hearing the reasons for the establishment
of amateur baseball, his advice and even seeing him
make a hit on the first pitch," recalls the man, who
was the only player from the province of
Guantánamo in the league, that first
"More than a few people," Telemaco
recalled, "thought that without professional status,
Cuban baseball would be lost. Fidel showed us the
contrary, and along with the people, made amateur
sports one of the most important conquests of the
Revolution. He had confidence in us and we didn’t
disappoint him, as Cuban baseball’s victories
"There were many potential players
wanting to join the team from Oriente province, so
we went through a rigorous selection process,
including an interview," he said and clarified that
during the first Series, he played third base, not
second, for which he later became so widely known.
"Pedro ‘Natilla’ Jiménez, the
manager, asked me to play third, since it was a
position where we were a bit weak. In the local
teams I had usually played short stop and pitched,
too. Players were more versatile back then, less
specialized in one position."
El Tele (as many still
affectionately call him) is known for his unique
pivoting style at second base. "I played with my
glove good and open, which made it easier to avoid
holding onto the ball for long and gain seconds at
second base for double plays. I would let the ball
go with a twist of my wrist, at waist height and
thus prevent the runner coming from first from
sliding into me and disrupting the double play.
Doing it meant risking being hit by the ball," the
13 season veteran explained. During the latter years
of his career, he suffered from two injuries, one to
a tendon in his thigh which required 40 stitches.
Andrés Pilotaje Telemaco created
along with Agustín Arias one of the best
combinations in Revolutionary baseball at second
base. He describes their rapport this way, "With us,
the bases were never loaded because the double play
or the out at home was always guaranteed, thanks to
the power of our arms and our sure hands fielding."
Fast, six feet tall, elegant in his
uniform and shiny spikes, Andrés Telemaco affirms
that he went out onto the field to show his love for
the team, for a good show. "I enjoyed every game.
This way of playing got a lot of people to the
stadiums to see me, which motivated me to train, to
do things better. It was Fidel who instilled a
passion for the sport in us, and patriotism as well.