The players are amateurs and play for the provinces in which they reside. All of the provinces in Cuba are represented by teams.
The National Series generally runs from November though April with a schedule of about 90 games. The series is then followed by a 3-tier round of playoff series culminating in a championship. This series has been played each winter since 1961-62. There are 16 teams organized in a West League and an East League. The top four teams from each league advance to a playoff, with the winner crowned in April. Two teams have dominated the National Series in recent years: Industriales and Santiago de Cuba.
Prior to the Cuban Revolution, various professional, semiprofessional, industrial, and amateur baseball leagues and team flourished in Cuba, including the professional Cuban League and the minor league Havana Sugar Kings.
Since the Cuban Revolution, baseball continued to thrive as Cuba's national game. In February 1961 the government created the National Institute for Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER) and in March, after the close of the 1960-61 Cuban League season, it decreed the abolition of professional baseball and plans to hold a national amateur championship.
The first National Series, 1961-62, included four teams: Occidentales, Orientales, Habana, and Azucareros. The next season the number of teams had increased to six, and in 1967 to 12. The expansion of baseball to the provinces was accompanied by the construction of new stadiums in provincial capitals, bringing first-tier baseball to the provincial population. This expansion greatly enhanced the nation-wide accessibility of top-flight baseball. The two new Havana-based teams, Industriales and Metropolitanos, were similar to the old professional Cuban League rivals, Almendares and Habana in that Industriales, like Almendares, wore blue, while Metropolitanos, like Habana, wore red. However, after Industriales went on to capture four consecutive championships from 1963-66, they became known as the premier Cuban team. Metropolitanos, on the other hand, was unable to be competitive and has failed to re-establish the rivalry; it is now considered a second-class team, where young players and fading veterans share playing time.
Several individuals were important in the transition to post-revolutionary baseball. Gilberto Torres managed the early national team and conveyed his vast knowledge of the game to the new generation of amateur players. Natilla Jiménez managed several provincial teams and was pitching coach of the national team. Juan Vistuer, Asdrúbal Baró, and Pedro Chávez also were prominent transitional coaches and managers. Conrado Marrero (former pitcher with the Washington Senators) remained in Cuba where he was a pitching coach for several teams.
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 .
Some other memorable events in the history of the Cuban national baseball system are the following:
Oldest Living Former Major-Leaguer, 102, Finally Gets Pension; Baseball Notebook; Cuban Pitcher's Payout Was Delayed Because of U.S. Embargo
Apr 26, 2013; Byline: Anne-Marie Garcia; The Associated Press HAVANA -- Put another candle on the very crowded birthday cake of Conrado...