Las Tunas's Leñadores make it to the finals in Caribbean Series

Panama City, February 10 (RHC)— Las Tunas Leñadores made it to the finals pf the Caribbean Series, after defeating Venezuela's Cardenales de Lara 3-0, at the Rod Carew stadium in the Panamanian capital.

They are the second team to reach the finals since the Island’s clubs returned to the tournament in 2014, when Pinar del Rio´s Vegueros won the title under the leadership of Alfonso Urquiola

Lazaro Blanco was the winning pitcher, scoring his second victory in the series.

Former big leaguer Manny Corpas closed out Panama's Los Toros 1-0 victory over Puerto Rico on Saturday night, setting up a championship game against Cuba in the Caribbean Series.

The Panamanians are playing in their first final since 1960, when they lost to Cuba. Panama has one Caribbean Series title, won in 1950.

The game will take place at 4:00 pm. this Sunday, February 10th.

Edited by Jorge Ruiz Miyares

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Cuba Will Request Baseball Caribbean Series Venue of 2020 or 2021 (+ Photos)

Havana, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) Cuba will request the headquarters of the Caribbean Series of 2020 or 2021, said today the president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, Higinio Vélez.

The baseball boss on the island recalled, however, that to get the tournament venue, Cuba must be accepted as a full member of the Confederation of Professional Baseball of the Caribbean (CBPC).

There is no longer any impediment (after reaching the agreement with the American Major Leagues on December 19). Actually there are many possibilities that we are (for Cuba) accepted as full members in the next meeting of the CBPC, he said.

Cuba was the founding country of the Caribbean series in 1949. From that year until 1960, the clubs of the largest island of the Antilles won seven of 12 editions, being the superpower of the region.

However, between 1960 and 2014 he left the contest due to political differences.

In 2014, after hard negotiations, Cuba returned to the Caribbean Series with the Azucareros de Villa Clara, who attended the edition of Isla Margarita, but as guests.

That condition of guest accompanies until this year to the teams champions of the National Series in that joust, something that could change in the imminent future.

If everything goes according to plans, Cuba would be accepted as a full member since 2020, and then could request the organization of the event, said Vélez, who has been in charge of the FCB for more than a decade and several times as national champion as director of the Wasps of Santiago from Cuba.

On Saturday, Vélez was present in the flag of the team Leñadores de Las Tunas, representative of Cuba in the Caribbean Series this year, which was going to take place in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, but could change its seat due to the political instability prevailing today. in that South American nation.

We are ready to attend Barquisimeto. We support everything that has been done so far by Venezuela in organizational matters. We are waiting for the final decision, explained Vélez.

The CBPC announced on Friday that this Saturday will announce its final decision on the Caribbean Series of 2019. Among the variants is to maintain the Venezuelan headquarters - although it is very unlikely - move the championship to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia or Panama, or even cancel the fair.

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Caribbean Series might be canceled after move from Venezuela

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The member leagues of the Caribbean Professional Baseball Leagues Confederation voted on Thursday to halt plans for the 2019 Caribbean Series in Venezuela and left open a period of 24 hours to find an emergency alternate venue or cancel the event this year, a source told ESPN Deportes.

Political unrest is rocking the country, with president Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido both claiming leadership. At least a dozen people have been killed since demonstrations began Wednesday.

The Confederation postponed until Friday the announcement of the immediate future of the 61st edition of the Caribbean classic, which was originally scheduled to be held Feb. 2-8 in Barquisimeto, in northwestern Venezuela. The Series, also called the Caribbean World Series, is held each February and pits the champions of the winter tournaments of Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Panama are some of the options that were considered to organize the event as emergency venues, although according to the president of the Mexican Pacific League, his counterparts from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and his league would have declined to organize.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Barranquilla, Colombia, Alejandro Char, told ESPN Deportes that he informed the Confederation of his willingness to assume the responsibility to organize the tournament at the Edgar Rentería Stadium in Barranquilla.

"All the options are being studied, but the possibility that the series will not be held this year, taking into account how late it is to move the tournament, is also very big. During [Thursday's] conversation, everyone agreed that right now there are no conditions in Venezuela to carry planes loaded with players and fans," said a source, who had a direct and active role in the conversation.

https://a4.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=%2Fphoto%2F2019%2F0125%2Fr493321_1296x729_16%2D9.jpg&w=570Plans for the 2019 Caribbean Series are in doubt after it was announced the series will not be played in Venezuela next month. A decision on whether it will be canceled, or played in another host country, is expected on Friday. AP Photo/Luis Gutierrez

Moving an event that costs close to $3 million dollars to a new host country within a week of starting is not an easy task. While Panama and Colombia would have the disadvantage of not having participating teams, the Dominican Republic would only host the event if each participant agrees to cover their expenses, said the source.

That leaves Mexico as the most logical option, although it has organized the last two editions. Omar Cañizales, the president of the Mexican Pacific League, said early Thursday that he is not interested in hosting for a third consecutive year.

Meanwhile, Ana Gabriela Guevara, director of Mexico's National Commission of Physical Culture and Sports (CONADE), said that Mexico has the conditions to host the Caribbean Series if it cannot be held in Venezuela.

"There are conditions for this, but we would have to see the cost issue and if it continues for the same dates or we would have to extend the time; I have not spoken with Omar, I hope to do it [soon], but Mexico has possibilities to bring it," said Guevara during the flag ceremony of the Mexican baseball team that will seek a spot in the Pan American Games.

Cañizales thought otherwise.

"It's not Mexico, it's not Dominican [Republic] or Puerto Rico [the possible venues], the three of us said that we are not in position [to do this], but something is evaluated so that it can be done. We look for guarantees of total security for the delegations and everyone who goes," said Cañizales before the third match of the final series of the Mexican Pacific League between Obregón and Jalisco.

"We do not believe that it is healthy for our country to bring such a beautiful series for three consecutive years. We do not want to wear out the series. We like to do things well in Mexico, and we run the risk that seven or eight days after starting a Caribbean Series, we had to start working on it," Cañizales told ESPN's SC5 on Thursday.

"We are always willing to collaborate with our sister leagues, but on a personal basis, I do not think it would be convenient," Cañizales added.

The recent political events in Venezuela forced the Confederation to schedule an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the different options available to try to rescue the event. Last year, when it was also scheduled to be played in Barquisimeto for the first time, the Caribbean Series had to move to Guadalajara, Mexico, although on that occasion the decision was made several months in advance.

After the meeting on Thursday, the president of Puerto Rico's Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, Juan A. Flores Galarza, reported details of the teleconference between the Caribbean directors.

"We spent an hour-and-a-half discussing the issue, and the decision was made to have a deadline to evaluate the possible scenarios, and at the meeting, we were given a report on the situation by the organizing committee. Within 24 hours, the final decision will be made," Flores Galarza said.

"We are preparing the team to compete in the Caribbean Series," said José Mallén Calac, general manager of the Estrellas Orientales team, which was crowned champion of the Dominican Republic league on Wednesday for the first time in 51 years.

When ESPN asked the GM if he would have any problems taking his team to Venezuela, he chose a diplomatic answer.

"That's not a decision of the teams, but of the leagues, we'll see what they decide," Calac said.

The second game of the final of the Venezuelan league between the Leones del Caracas and the Cardenales de Lara in Barquisimeto was about to be suspended, after the Caracas players left for the hotel. Later they returned and it was played after the start was delayed two hours.

Due to the uncertainty, Caracas' American pitchers Craig Stem and Logan Darnell left the country on Thursday, the club said. Other foreign players and at least one Leones coach also requested to be allowed to leave.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred recommended the personnel of the 30 MLB teams, including those from the minor leagues, refrain from traveling to Venezuela at this time.

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Cuba overflowing with talent despite defections

There's not much Roberto Pacheco has not seen during his five decades in the radio booth calling baseball and boxing for Cuba.

He has been to five Olympics, countless international tournaments and all four World Baseball Classic tournaments.

He's one of the most famous figures on the island, the eyes and voice of the Cuban people.

"With the internet, people can hear me all over, not just [in] Cuba," Pacheco, 76, said in Spanish. "It's such a great pleasure to be able to share the game with all of the passionate fans we have. Baseball is life in Cuba, so to have this job is honor."

The baseball landscape continues to evolve in Cuba, but a few things remain the same: The Cuban team enters every international tournament confident it's going to win it, and Pacheco is there to call the games. The confident team from the province of Granma won its first game of the Caribbean Series on Friday, and the island's famous radio broadcaster was delighted to send the news back home.

"Good game, right?" Pacheco said after Cuba's 6-4 victory over Venezuela. "I told you we can play." Cuba later improved to 2-0 in the tournament with its 5-4 win over Mexico late Saturday night.

The bearer of mostly good -- and sometimes bad -- news, Pacheco still believes Cuba's Serie Nacional, the island's top league, and the national team is a force on the international baseball scene despite the defections that have depleted its rosters in recent years.

"Players leaving Cuba was not good for us," Pacheco said. "But we have talent, and we should be respected. The players might be young, but we still have good players."

Supporters of Cuban baseball point to the island's success in international tournaments in the 23-and-under category and younger. There's also the belief that outfielders Yoelqui Cespedes, younger brother of Yoenis, and Victor Victor Mesa could be the face of Cuban baseball in the future.

Additionally, there are signs that young pitchers Yariel Rodriguez, Yosimar Cousin, Yosver Zulueta, Javier Mirabel and Pablo Guillen will eventually become leaders on the mound. Infielders Norel Gonzalez, Yolbert Sanchez and Ariel Martinez could also develop into national-team stars.

"I do think baseball in Cuba is advancing," veteran Cuban outfielder Alfredo Despaigne said in Spanish. "We are getting there little by little. We have a lot of young players who want to play, and we hope they stay that way, but we have lost a lot who have left the country."

In the short term, Cuba is focused on winning its ninth Caribbean Series title. The team has 17 members of its most recent World Baseball Classic team in Mexico, but it will still have overcome some uneven play in recent years.

In 2014, Villa Clara became the first team from Cuba to participate in the Caribbean Series since 1960, and it was eliminated in four games. The next year, the team from Pinar del Rio won the title. Cuba was eliminated in the semifinals in 2016 and finished with a 3-2 record last year.

"We have a chance to be great again," Pacheco said. "But that's only if the players don't leave."

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Alazanes Baseball Team Train at the Latin American Stadium

The Alazanes from Granma, National Baseball Champions, are training in the Latin American Stadium in Havana with the objective of preparing the team for the upcoming Caribbean Series to be held from February 2nd to the 8th.

During a visit of the Cuban News Agency to the stadium, some players were carrying out batting practice others defense and the pitchers were doing their regular exercises led by their trainer Ciro Silvino Licea and Jose Elosegui.

Manager Carlos Marti Santos said that he is satisfied with the team, which is being reinforced with 12 additional players, including pitchers.

He pointed out that the pitching performance will be key to the team´s desire of winning the Caribbean Series.

Roel Santos, who will participate for the third time in the regional competition said being motivated and is ready to contribute to the team´s success.

He expressed that the main objective is to achieve the victory. The last time Cuba won the Caribbean Series was in 2015 when Pinar del Rio led by Alfonso Urquiola got the victory.

Guillermo Aviles, who is predicted to be one of the main offensive figures of Alazanes expressed feeling in excellent shape and confident in demonstrating his quality as a batter in the event which dates back to 1949.

In the previous regional event, Alazanes from Granma won 3 games and lost 1 in the first phase but fell before the Aguilas de Mexicali team 1 to 0.

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