As the Major League Baseball’s season rounds third base and comes home for the final game of the 2016 World Series, diehard baseball fans begin to nervously scan their living rooms wondering what to do until the Grapefruit League begins once again. The unlikeliest of saviors may just well be Cuba’s National Baseball Series.
In a recently signed deal of historic proportions, LGT Capital Ltd. and its 50/50 partner, Rushmans have announced that they have been granted the rights by RTVC, the Commercial Enterprise of Cuban Radio and Television, to co-produce and distribute the Cuban baseball series worldwide. The deal is for four seasons, covering the Olympic cycle as Cuba’s leading players compete for their clubs and for places on the National team at Tokyo 2020.
The Cuba National Baseball Series, which has been the launch-pad for many stellar international sports careers, will be available to a global audience for the first time. Many of the best baseball players in the world are Cuban and the talent emanating from Cuba will now be seen on the world stage.
The Second Phase and Playoffs of this season are to be distributed and commercialized by Rushmans and through their appointed agents Pitch International.
The rights cover around 60 matches between November 1st and January 24th and will feature iconic teams including reigning champions Ciego de Avila, Matanzas, which is coached by the legendary Victor Mesa, Granma and Villa Clara which features Freddy Asiel Alvarez, one of the league’s hottest pitchers.
Six games per week will be made available to broadcasters worldwide by Rushmans on behalf of RTVC with HD signal, Spanish and English commentaries and graphics. Weekday games will vary their first pitch time between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm while all weekend games will start at 2:00 pm. (All times are local).
Phase Two of the season sees six qualifiers from the initial 16 team competition battling for places in the Play-Offs which start in the New Year. The teams will be reinforced by Cuban baseball stars currently making history overseas with teams including the Japanese Yomiuri Giants and Canada’s Capitales de Québec.
Nigel Rushman, founder of Rushmans said: “The National Baseball Series is the most important sports event series in a nation where baseball runs through the veins of the people.
“For generations Cuba has been producing hugely talented players. Now the world has the opportunity to see Cuban baseball at first hand and experience not only the excitement of the games and the extraordinary talent of the players but the passion of the fans and the remarkable hold the sport has on the country.
“Cuba is perhaps, historically, the sport’s most important nation outside the USA. There is already tremendous interest in everything that is happening in Cuba. We are proud to have been appointed by RTVC and to play a role in sharing Cuban baseball with the world. This represents the only route to obtaining these rights.”
Unfortunately this announcement does not mean that Cuban baseball will automatically appear on your TV screens once the Cubs and Indians pack up their gear. Networks are still to be secured for broadcasting and this week’s Sportel Monaco, the biggest media sports rights market in the world ,may be just the spot for cable TV deals that will deliver the broadcasts to your neighbourhood.
Stay tuned, Cuban baseball fans! Stay tuned.
A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based travel writer and photographer who dreams of hitting a home run.