In the first few minutes of conversation with Orlando Díaz Fernández, at his home in the Cardenas town of Guásimas, I could see his passion for baseball.
Ever since I could remember,» he says, «I grew up hearing about baseball. My grandfather Rufo was a fanatical fan of the professional team Habana. I went several times with my grandmother to Palmar de Junco to see my cousin Tomás Soto play, who at that time played for the Rayonitro team. I can assure you that since I was a little boy I loved baseball».
As a player of this sport he earned the admiration of the public due to the skills he achieved with his right hand, since unfortunately his left arm was disabled.
«I was a normal child. I studied elementary school in La Progresiva de Guásimas, where from the age of 7 to 10 I represented the school in children’s championships. A note in my school record said that I would be a good baseball player. On August 16th, 1960 I suffered an accident on vacation when I rode a horse that bolted and threw me against a wall. My elbow popped out of place and soon after an infection set in. I was hospitalized for seven months at the Pedro Borras Children’s Hospital in Havana, where the doctors struggled not to amputate, but my left arm was left useless».
Faced with this situation, his will to continue playing baseball prevailed.
«My passion for baseball surpassed all terms and I managed to continue playing first base with one hand and I practiced taking off my glove and my speed was such that no one could run me down. My skills grew, I was not a good hitter, but I made up for it on defense. I had a manager, Paulino, «the Chinese», who made bats, he never sat me down and said that what I needed was a safe fielding».
Orlando has many anecdotes from those years.
«I remember playing in Cárdenas when the opposition had a man on 3rd with no outs and the manager told the runner: ‘When you want to go home, the man on 1st is one-armed and they rolled the ball to the short field, they threw to 1st and I returned the catcher. I got him out several meters before reaching the plate. I can’t forget that the home plate umpire came to congratulate me and told me ‘you’re a Phenomenon'».
This player not only stood out as a player, he managed the Varadero youth team for three years at the regional level and on all three occasions he was champion. He served as traveling secretary in the Papeleros team, from Cárdenas, managed by Soto. He learned to score ball games, was a sports activist in Varadero and assistant to the local baseball commissioner
and assistant to the local baseball commissioner, Alberto Sagüita Hernández.
For his example to overcome that difficulty and achieve his dream of playing baseball with quality he deserved the recognition of his opponents, while the public who saw him perform in a field rewarded with applause more than his brilliant plays, his will.
«I played in 18 ball fields in the province and when the games were over they came to congratulate me and when they knew me they applauded me, I always carry that with me. Baseball has been my antidote to adversity, that’s why it’s part of my life.»
Note from the author.
Orlando Díaz Fernández graduated as a history teacher from the Lazo de la Vega School in Havana. He taught at the Luis Augusto Turcios Lima School of Sports Initiation, when he lived in Varadero, which he did not continue when the aforementioned school moved to Matanzas. He spent most of his time as a worker at the José Martí Block Factory in Santa Marta, where he worked in different positions for 52 years, from 1969 to 2021, when he retired.
Written by Francisco Soriano.