Photo: Enrique Tirse.
It was the first days of May 2012. The Matanzas baseball team had undergone notable changes in that 51st National Series that placed it as the top winner of the qualifying stage. The fans returned to fill the Victoria de Giròn or whatever municipal stadium the Crocodiles were presented.
It was the first campaign led by Víctor Mesa from Villa Clara in this province, who applied new methods and demands, above all, to obtain the result. His promises to the fans that they would fill the Victoria de Girón again, television would come and that they would qualify, were fulfilled.
The enthusiasm grew after the hard-fought victory in the quarterfinals against Sancti Spíritus, four games to three and the move to the semifinals, against no less than Industriales, a match that also extended to seven challenges, favorable to the Blues.
After 19 years, a team from the province returned to the play offs and reached a bronze medal. In those days, among the visitors to the Matanzas stadium, the three-time Olympic champion Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence was a member of the Athletes Attention Commission, with whom we met at the main gate of Victoria de Girón, after Matanzas beat Industriales 6 by 3, on Thursday May 10th and agreed to formulate a few words for Radio 26.
I remember being affable, as always, after the greeting, when he saw me with the tape recorder in hand, the first thing he said to me was: “I don’t want to talk about boxing.”
So I asked him: Have they told me that you played baseball in your youth?
-It’s true, until I was recruited for boxing, which I quickly fell in love with.
Luckily! I replied in a humorous tone.
-Look, if he hadn’t been used for boxing, he would have been a baseball player, I assure you. I was very attracted to it.
The question about the performance of the Matanzas team could not be absent.
-Something that the fans needed and also our baseball. This is a province of history in this sport. Victor has achieved important things that I hope other provinces will follow. For me the main thing that has influenced these results, in addition to the technical-tactical preparation of the team, is the support of the authorities to better care for the players. I think that worrying about that aspect brought with it a higher performance.
The conversation stopped with the arrival of the vehicle that would take him to the hotel where he was staying. He said goodbye with a greeting to the Matanzas people and wished the Crocodiles luck for the remainder of the contest.
He put his right hand of great champion on my left shoulder and with the kindness that always accompanied him in the 60 years of his life, he said “thank you, brother.”
A month later, on June 11th, 2012, he died suddenly in Havana, a victim of ischemic heart disease. The death of the greatest amateur boxer of all time was a worldwide consternation. All of Cuba suffered the pain of the loss of him; It could not be otherwise, it was the gratitude to the man who had rejected millionaire contracts for staying with his people.