Olympic bid: Castro Jr star baseball ‘pitcher’

Like cricket in India,baseball is an obsession in Cuba

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi | Published: June 17, 2013 3:21 am

As baseball bids to return to the Olympics,one of those playing a leading role is Antonio Castro,the 39-year-old son of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

Driven by his father’s love for the sport,Castro Junior has been instrumental in getting baseball and softball into the shortlist of sports that will vie for a place at the 2020 Games.

Like cricket in India,baseball is an obsession in Cuba. “My father played baseball and loved the sport. While his career took a different path,he did instill in me the same passion for the game,” Antonio said in an email interview.

The Cuban national team won gold medal in baseball at the 1992,1996 and 2004 Olympics and a silver at the Sydney Games in 2000.

Antonio was present at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in St Petersburg on May 29,where baseball/softball (for women) along with squash and wrestling made the shortlist for an assembly meeting to be held in Buenos Aires in September. That meeting will take the call on which sport will make it to the Games.

Antonio was elected vice-president of the International Baseball Federation in 2009. One of his key responsibilities was to bring baseball,dumped from the Games in 2005,back into the Olympic fold.

Baseball’s toughest challenge comes from wrestling,a sport that enjoys overwhelming support. Russian President Vladimir Putin has led the calls for wrestling’s return to the Olympic fold.

The chief medical officer of the Cuban contingent at the London Olympics,Antonio said he was an “optimist” but realistic about the game’s chances.

About why baseball should be given a second chance,he said: “With 65 million players worldwide,baseball and softball rank as the largest sport not on the Olympic programme. Like the Olympic movement,it unites people across all borders and boundaries. It’s a game anyone,anywhere can play.”

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