(Mar. 23) – The Asahi Shimbun – AS HE SENT the Cuban baseball delegation off to the World Baseball Classic, Cuban President Fidel Castro encouraged players to go forward, “always, until victory,” citing the words of his ally, revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967).
According to a passage in publisher Iwanami Shoten’s “Nekkyu Densetsu” (Baseball fever legends), the writer, Tamiko Tetsuya, once saw a photograph of Guevara in the batter’s box prominently displayed at the entrance of a restaurant in Havana.
At the bottom of the restaurant’s menu, she found words that declared baseball went to Cuba in order to survive.
Cuba has a bitter enmity against the United States. Yet when it comes to baseball, both countries share the same level of intense passion for the game.
Baseball is Cuba’s national sport. The country has won three Olympic gold medals. Yet, in a face-off with the pre-eminent Cuban team, the Japan national side claimed the inaugural world baseball championship.
In the Japan-U.S. game, there was a questionable overturned call over a tag-up on a sacrifice fly, and Japan later lost the game.
Japan was also defeated by South Korea, and gloom set in. The team only managed to qualify for the semifinals when the United States lost to Mexico.
Even when everything seems to be going wrong and one is struck by deep despair, sometimes you may see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you never give up, there is a chance of snatching victory at the end.
The Japanese team, through their impressive feat, showed us that this can be done.
There were many points of issue that emerged throughout the games as to how the world championship was organized and managed. Problems were not limited to umpires and their calls.
Major League Baseball in the United States already has its own World Series. How will that co-exist with the other “World” now defined by the World Baseball Classic?
Putting that aside for now, let us savour the memorable day when the Japanese team manager, Sadaharu Oh, who is the world record holder for most career home runs, became “the world’s No. 1.”
Oh managed his team well, bringing out the best in all of his players. As the team threw him up into the air, again and again, Oh’s face lit up in joy.
His face was deeply lined but beaming with dignity.