Herts signs its first Cuban player

Herts Baseball Club has announced the signing of Carlos Velazco-Carus from the Poole Piranhas. He was born in Cuba making him the first player from that baseball-mad country ever to wear the Herts jersey. During his time with the Piranhas he played mainly at third base and shortstop, but was also a member of the pitching staff.

Velazco-Carus has indicated that he may be moving closer to London which would fit in with his transfer to Herts, but for the time being he will have to make the long trip from Bournemouth.

We had a chance to speak with Velazco-Carus about his move to Herts, Cuban baseball, among other topics.

You are going to be travelling a very long distance from Bournemouth to play for Herts this season. What convinced you to make this big commitment?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: Your club is very well established and from discussions with Xavier Gonzalez it seems that a move to Herts would work well for all.

You have played for the Bournemouth Sharks and the Poole Piranhas over the last few seasons and have played against some tough opponents in the British leagues, but which has been the team which has been most difficult to play against?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: I will have to say that every game is a tough one no matter what your opponent’s game is like. Having said this, there are teams like Herts, Sidewinders, Latin Boys among others who are always difficult to play against. In general, it has been a pleasure to play in the British league.

You started your baseball career in Cuba. Which sports are the most popular in Cuba and where does baseball rank in terms of popularity in Cuba?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: Baseball is Cuba’s national sport, so it is the most popular sport in the country, although its quality has declined in the last decade or so, due to lack of motivation among many other aspects. Cuba is situated only 90 miles from the USA, which makes our choice of sports is similar to theirs.

There have been some fantastic Cuban players playing for the Cuba National Team. Herts Falcons’s centerfielder, Cris Hiche, actually played in Brazil alongside the legendary Cuban player and two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Lazaro Vargas. Who is seen as the most famous player in Cuban baseball history?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: Lazaro Vargas – third baseman – what a player? One of the greatest in Cuban baseball, alongside many other big names like Omar Linares, Orestes Kindelan, Victor Mesa and many more, the list would be infinite if they were all to be mentioned.

Orlando Hernandez is one of the many outstanding baseball players to come out of Cuba. His unusual delivery and ability to change the angle of his pitches kept British baseball fans glued to the TV screen in the late 90s and early 2000s.

We have seen some fantastic Cuban players play in MLB such as former New York Yankees pitcher, Orlando Hernandez “El Duque” and his brother, Livan Hernandez, who played for the Marlins, the Giants and others. Are there any young Cuban prospects who we should keep an eye out for in the future?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: That, I would not know for certain, it’s difficult to follow the Cuban league from this side of the Atlantic, but I am positive that there will always be good natural talent coming from there.

You played for Havana U19 back in Cuba. You have had some experience playing in the UK now. Would you say that the Havana U19 team is at the same level as the British AAA or the NBL or higher?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: Havana U19s can be compared with the NBL, but with higher level of preparation because we train all year round rather than the occasional weekly training.

You are the first Cuban player to wear the Herts jersey. What can Herts do to attract more players from the Cuban community and other Latin American communities in the UK and get them involved in British baseball? Where should clubs look for these communities and how can we attract them to the British baseball leagues?

Carlos Velazco-Carus: There is a vast Latin community in the UK, I think clubs should look for players at colleges, they should also distribute leaflets and related advertisement at Latin festivals and parties which are celebrated in London and its outskirts.

The first chance to see Carlos Velazco-Carus and all the other new Herts signings will come during the upcoming Herts Spring League which starts on 23 March at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.