MLB News

WBC’s Cuba vs. USA semifinal in Miami is fraught with tension

Cuban players celebrate after defeating Australia in their World Baseball Classic quarterfinals.

MIAMI — It may be the most polarizing game in the history of the World Baseball Classic, with protests and tightened security surrounding loanDepot Park, when Cuba takes the field Sunday night against Team USA in Little Havana.

Tension, resentment and rage have been building in Miami’s Cuban community since the team beat Australia this week and advanced to the semifinals.

“A lot of people, even if they’ve been going back and forth,’’ Angela Torres, 70. tells USA TODAY Sports, “they’ll still be upset about it. I know there’s going to be trouble. Not violence, I mean protests. There will be a lot of yelling.’’

Torres is the mother of Vince Torres, chief marketing officer of DirecTV, who attended her first professional baseball game Saturday when Venezuela played the USA. She won’t be at the Cuban game, but she’ll be intently watching like the rest of her family.

Cuban players celebrate after defeating Australia in their World Baseball Classic quarterfinals.

Torres was 10 years old when her family came over from Cuba with her parents in the aftermath of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

Her father, Angel Paez, proudly fought against Fidel Castro’s forces in the failed operation supported by the U.S. government and was shot in the knee. He was imprisoned for 20 months and finally released in December 1962 when the U.S. government paid $53 million for food and medicine to Cuba.

He and his family came to Miami on a cargo ship one month later.

And never returned.

“No, I’ve never felt the need or the want to go back,’’ Angela Torres says. “Not once. Not while Castro was there.

Vince Torres says: “I would love to go to Cuba, but I will not go there until Cuba is free. That’s a personal decision out of loyalty to my grandfather. I don’t hold it against anybody else. It’s just personal.’’

The mixed feelings among Cuban Americans are similar to the players themselves. This is the first year that MLB players are permitted to play for Cuba. Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert from the Chicago White Sox are playing for Cuba, along with former All-Star Yoenis Cespedes.

Kansas Royals closer Aroldis Chapman, the seven-time All-Star and World Series champion who was born in Holguin, Cuba, refuses to play for Cuba. Tampa Bay star outfielder Randy Arozarena, who defected from Cuba in 2015, is playing for Mexico, becoming a Mexican citizen last year.

“You can see the conflict, the cultural element of it is so interesting,’’ Vince…

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