The Cuban people love sports and admire physical dexterity, which is one of the reasons why ballet is so revered. However, no sport is closer to the hearts of almost all Cubans such as baseball, long considered an American sport, but that is Cuba's official sport. In fact, baseball is so revered and people and players are so dedicated that Cuba has won three Olympic gold medals since baseball became an official Olympic sport in 1992.
Baseball arrived in Cuba through students returning from American universities in the mid-19th century, as well as through American sailors whose ships arrived there. It quickly became popular and its popularity grew to the point that it caused political ramifications. The Spanish government and settlers noted that their bullfights were poorly attended after a while and that people attended baseball games instead of mandatory bullfights. This led to the prohibition of sport, but did not have the intended effect of the oppressors; Baseball became an expression of freedom and challenge.
During this oppressive period, Esteban Bellan became the first Latin American baseball player to be hired by a major league in the United States, first for the Haymaker of Troy in 1871 and then for the New York Mutuals in 1873 as third base. He was later called the "father of Cuban baseball" for organizing the first official game in 1874; His team, Club Habana, won the game 51 to 9 in nine innings.
In the 1960s, the communists banned all professional sports in the country, as they were considered opposed to the values of the Revolution. Baseball and all other professional sports were now amateur leagues; The government used baseball to instill national pride and as a way of embodying the objectives of the revolution. They used the now amateur sport of baseball as a way to encourage physical fitness and foster national unity and pride. Cubans became even more involved in baseball, as it was used to advance the political and social objectives of the revolution; By participating, they felt that they were intimately involved with the development of their beloved country and exerted some influence on social and political progress.
The amateur leagues replaced the professional clubs to eliminate the commercialism of the sport and the players suffered drastic reductions in wages. In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union, Cuba's main trading partner, collapsed and economic conditions deteriorated. Things were so bad that players in the bull pen often lent their tacos to those in the field. Occasionally, two or three players would share a single set of tacos.
For this reason, players began choosing to play in other countries, particularly in the United States. First baseman Kendry Morales, pitcher José Contreras and outfielder Yoenis Céspedes are just three of the talented and ball players that Cuba has lost.
However, baseball is still the most beloved sport in Cuba. Children are taught the game almost as soon as they can walk and really love to participate in the national passion.