Ventura de Jesús
AT 76 years of age, Edwin Walters’
bearing still recalls the strong physique of his
youth. He is a tall man, trim, with long arms and
big hands, ideal for playing baseball.
"I’m from Camagüey. I came to the
España sugar mill, here in Perico, for two months
and, 50 years later I’m still in Matanzas," he said
proudly while observing the picturesque surroundings
of the former mill, a place where he has gained the
affection of his neighbors and represented the lofty
values of revolutionary sports.
He speaks with modesty and sincerity.
"I was the batting leader during the
first National Series season with a .367 average,
but what moves me most, when recalling the early
days of revolutionary baseball, is what Fidel said
to us on that January 14 of 1962 about the
importance of eliminating professional sports in
"Some people didn’t understand the
significance of that. We were used to baseball for
profit, but we took on the great challenge of
replacing it. We did it, with Fidel’s encouragement.
The congenial conversationalist, who
laughs like a school boy, was a powerful force at
bat, one of the most feared among players during
those first games. A sportscaster of the era gave
him his nickname, Montaña del Central España.
"There wasn’t much technique, but we
played hard, with love and believing that everything
was valid. Imagine, with my height and breadth, they
hit me with the ball a number of times. The ball
wasn’t as lively as it is today but there were good
pitchers with experience in other leagues. The truth
is that it was a lot of work to play baseball. The
conditions weren’t ideal, but the sacrifice was
Among his most vivid memories, the
Matanzas great recalls his participation in the 1962
Central American and Caribbean Games, which took
place in Jamaica. He played in left field for the
Cuban team and wasn’t feeling well. "It was a short
tournament, with just five games and by the time I
started to feel better, the championship was over."
Walters recalls his initiation in
baseball and his time in the Pedro Betancourt league.
He regrets having entered the National Series a bit
late, at 27 years of age. "I was active for 10
seasons, not counting the 10 Million season. I
played left field and first base. I wasn’t a fast
runner from home to first but I did better running
the bases. My last season was 1971. Well now, I’ve
devoted my life to baseball. After my retirement,
for 20 years, I coached teams in Matanzas."
As he relates his story, Walters
speaks highly of his wife Zenaida López Alfonso,
with whom he had three sons and a daughter. Before
saying anything he gives her a glance of love and
gratitude. "She should be wearing my medals. It was
baseball’s ‘fault’ that I wasn’t at home when our
children were born, when I was most needed. One
might say that she raised them alone."
Describing Edwin Walters as a sports
legend and a good man is enough. He continues to
live as simply as the first day he arrived, in the
best days of his youth, at the España mill.
When he talks about baseball, his
enthusiasm shows and, for a few seconds, he displays
the brilliance and strength for which he has been
known for 50 years, since the very beginning of
Do you remember your longest home
"I hit it off Gaspar El Curro Pérez,
in Palmar de Junco. The ball went as far as the Pío
Pío, a restaurant located beyond center field. Every
time we get together we trade jokes about those
times. He enjoys all the times he struck me out and
hit me with the ball, which was more than once."