Baseball isn’t just a game.

castro-ozzie

The Marlins new baseball park was built literally two blocks from where my grandfather lived his final days. I find it a fitting tribute to a man who lived and breathed baseball, whose love for the game was only surpassed by two things: his love for his family and his love for Cuba. To me it’s more than a ballpark sitting there in the heart of Little Havana. It’s a memorial to man who always said we’d have a Major League franchise in Miami but who never lived to see them play.

Every time I drove past the new stadium as it was being built I couldn’t help but think of my Grandfather, and how happy and excited he would be to have the team he would call his own playing within walking distance to his home. I imagine he would have brought a folding chair and an umbrella and plopped himself just across the street to watch as the stadium rose up from the ashes of the Orange Bowl while listening to ballgames on his transistor radio. Such was his love for the game.

For years I thought that my grandfather’s obsession with the game was just fanaticism, but I’ve since learned that it was much more than that.

My grandparents exiled to Miami in the early sixties. They were the first of our family lucky enough to escape the nightmare that had engrossed Cuba. They came here with nothing. They didn’t know the culture. They didn’t know the language. And, most importantly and most painfully, they had no family here. It would be years before the rest of the family would join them here in their city of exile. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been.

Their lives were in chaos. They no longer had the stability they had in Cuba. Here alone in the States, there was no certainty. They were in limbo, not knowing if they’d ever return to their beloved homeland or if they’d ever see their families again. The comfort borne of knowing was gone from their lives.

Despite this, though, my grandfather had his baseball. His coping mechanism. His on the field family. While he worried that he might never see my parents or my aunts and uncles again, he sought and found relief in the game of baseball, and ball players became his surrogate family. My grandfather could turn on his little radio and know, for certain, that Mickey Mantle would be there. And Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. Clemente would be there for him, too. As would Roger Maris and Hammerin’ Hank.

For my grandfather, the game of baseball was more than just a sport, or a pastime or entertainment. Baseball was my grandfather’s support system here in this new country. It soothed his loneliness. For the insecurity of his future, baseball was his solace.

That’s not to say my grandfather and baseball had the perfect relationship. I can tell you for a fact that he absolutely hated the DH rule. I recall many a game where I was subjected to a lecture on baseball purity and why the designated hitter had “ruined the game.” And, had he lived to see the day, he would have been devastated by the 1994 strike.

But like all disagreements between family, he forgave baseball for the DH. And he would have most certainly forgiven the game for that strike.

I know, too, that the Marlins would have angered him. He would have been apoplectic of the dismantling of the 1997 World Series Champion team. Doubly so when they did the same thing in 2003. He would have taken exception to many of the team’s personnel decisions throughout the years, but, it’s baseball, and some things can be forgiven. The Marlins, his favorite team, would be his immediate family, after all.

I know my grandfather would not have liked the Marlins hiring Ozzie Guillen as their manager. He was never one for tantrums and payaserias. Yet he would have tolerated it for the game of baseball. If Guillen could manage his favorite team to a pennant, then my grandfather would have accepted it and put up with the man’s on field and off field antics.

But given that my grandfather’s love of baseball runs a distant third to his love of family and his love of Cuba, Guillen’s recent professions of love and respect for fidel castro would have meant the kiss of death for the Marlins. It would have meant my grandfather never stepping foot in that new stadium he watched being built with excitement and anticipation.

Being the man of conviction and integrity that he was, my grandfather could not, in good conscience, root for a team whose manager admires the man responsible for the separation of his family, for the death of loved ones and the cause of such profound suffering. For the destruction of his patria and her culture.

And since my grandfather is no longer with us, it falls upon me to let his voice be heard: Mr. Guillen, save the apologies. There is nothing you can say or do to ease the pain you have caused except resign. Your loved and respected fidel castro took our country, and our homes and our families and our lives and you, sir, have singlehandedly taken away baseball. Our solace.

5 thoughts on “Baseball isn’t just a game.”

  1. Val, you hit this one out of the ballpark. The marlins association has a fidel loving drunk (by his own admission) for a manager. But….. it would take a man of integrity to own up and resign, that is not guillen. He will lie and beg to keep his job. is this the best the marlins could do??

  2. Baseball! Is there nothing sacred anymore? What could be more American than baseball? Now we have a communist lover as a manager of an American baseball team. What next?

  3. The guy’s mouth is much bigger than his brain. What brain he has is only fit for baseball. He may well have an alcohol problem. This is a fairly primitive individual who cannot really handle significant media access. He’s basically an incident waiting to happen.

  4. 5 game suspension, the marlin management saves face by imposing this, guillen is “punished”, the media is placated by looking into his eyes as he spoke, so they will drop it and move on. A mere slap on the wrist . I am still not going to the games

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