USA Today looks at why, apart from simply being a baseball-mad country, Cuba is able to produce so much talent:
“Everyone plays all positions until about age 15,” says Adelio Garcia, manager for this team of top 13- and 14-year-olds from the western Havana district of Playa. “They like kids with many skills.”
“They” are government scouts who seek out top talent in Cubans as young as 7, sending gifted athletes in all sports to special district schools. Those who excel are tapped for boarding academies where they get coaching, practice and individualized diet and exercise regimens.
Cuba’s powerful sports machine weeds out all but the best talent as youngsters age, helping this tiny country crank out droves of world-class athletes. But it begins in places like this: A rocky field where kids who have yet to hit puberty practice on a leisurely Friday afternoon.
“We look for talent from infancy, always thinking about sending (kids) to high-performance schools,” Garcia said. “There is always talent. Cubans have baseball in their blood.”
Physical education begins at age 6 and baseball is a mandatory part of the curriculum, said Tony Castillo, head of scholastic development for the Cuban Baseball Federation. Tryouts at 7 or 8 can win kids a spot on a district team like Playa’s, and the chance to attend non-sleep-away schools for baseball players.
You read this thing and your first impulse is to be taken somewhat aback at how serious they take this. Then you realize that the traveling leagues and all of that jazz that we put our kids through is no less odd.