Baseball was first introduced to Cuba in 1860s by students who returned from the US and also from Western sailors docked in the nation. It quickly became popular and was spread widely.
In 1878, the Cuban League was established composed of 3 teams — Mantanzas, Habana, and Almendares — each playing 4 games. At first, players were all whites and amateurs but professionalism soon emerged as rivalry among teams strengthen.
The Cuban Revolution in 1959 resulted significant changes that reached the sports community. Baseball was chosen as the sport that symbolizes Cuba’s nationalism after the revolution. (Since the 19th century, baseball has already served as a symbol of Cuban pride.)
After the revolution concluded, guerilla leaders joined in exhibition matches in baseball as symbolic gestures. The 1960s also saw the replacement of pro baseball system with the Cuban National Series, an amateur baseball league. This is to encourage post-revolutionary games that depend on national ideals and not montery gain.
During the same period, Cuba’s government created the INDER (Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Recreation). This agency handled the physical education functions and the coordination of everything related to sports and served as a driving point in prioritizing success in sports games. Cuba’s eventual succss in the international sports scene put the revolution at the forefront and became a symbol of its triumph. Participation in sports was made essential as part of the revolutionary activity.
Baseball still played a key role even after the revolution, along with soccer and boxing.The government encourages its people to pursue sports albeit for a more political reason. Although it can be argued that sports really serve as a factor in improving health, it can also be surmised that games serve as training grounds for citizens in the area of self-defense.
From the outside, everything seemed good. However, when the professional system was removed to make way for amateur leagues, players ended up not getting paid enough. Prominent players only made an average of USD 2,000 per year. The situation got worse with Russia’s collapse in the 90s. Because of this, a number of players defected to the US for more rewarding opportunities. During this time, the sports scene in Cuba was also marred by bribery scandals which saw players and coaches fixing games and getting suspended as a result.