From BR Bullpen
Alfonso Urquiola Crespo (El Niño)
Alfonso Urquiola was a long-time infielder for the Cuban national team who later managed two different clubs in the Pan American Games and was a successful manager in Cuba. He was the predecessor to Antonio Pacheco at second base for the national team and was briefly a teammate of Pacheco's as Pacheco began as a shortstop.
Urquiola debuted for Cuba in the 1973 Amateur World Series, going 4 for 14 in a back-up role. In the 1974 Central American and Caribbean Games, he hit .417. In the 1975 Selective Series, Urquiola won the batting title at .358.
During the 1975 Pan American Games, he hit .333. He was 5 for 11 in the 1978 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the 1978 Amateur World Series, he batted .324/.333/.514 with 10 RBI in 10 games but fielded only .894 with five errors in ten games at second base. He paced the 1979 Selective Series with twelve steals.
Urquiola was 1 for 2 in the 1979 Pan American Games. In the 1979 Intercontinental Cup, the second baseman hit .333 and led all players with two triples. He was named to the tournament All-Star team as a result of his performance. He followed with a .406 average in the 1980 Amateur World Series.
In the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, Alfonso posted a .268 batting average. He led the 1982 Selective Series in steals with 14. He played for Cuba in both the 1983 Intercontinental Cup (1 for 4) and 1983 Pan American Games (.222).
Urquiola concluded his career for the national team on a high note, hitting .449/.491/.816 in the 1984 Amateur World Series with 11 runs, 11 RBI, 6 doubles and 4 homers in 13 games, far better than Barry Bonds did in that event. Alfonso was third in average behind Roberto Bianchi and Víctor Mesa, tied Mesa for 5th in homers, was second in doubles behind Lourdes Gourriel and second to Mesa in hits with 22. Mesa won MVP honors but Urquiola was clearly a serious candidate.
Urquiola hit .286/.333/.404 in 19 years in Cuban baseball. He retired among the top 10 all-time in seasons played. He stole 209 bases in 316 tries in the Cuban leagues.
After retiring as a player, Urquiola became a manager. In 1997-1998, he replaced Jorge Fuentes as manager of Pinar del Río even though Fuentes had led them to the title a year prior. Urquiola did not skip a beat, guiding them to a title as well. He won a second title in 2010-2011 and a third in 2013-2014.
In the 1999 Pan American Games, Alfonso was Cuba's manager in the first event in which they faced US and Canadian teams using professional players. Cuba won the tournament and a spot in the 2000 Olympics under Urquiola's guidance. He also had managed Cuba to Gold in the 1998 Baseball World Cup.
Urquiola's services were leaned to the Panamanian national team, which he piloted in the 2007 Pan American Games. While Panama failed to win a Medal, they beat Cuba, which was managed by Rey Vicente Anglada, Urquiola's former national team infield mate and rival. Urquiola returned to guide Cuba in the 2011 Baseball World Cup (finishing second to the Netherlands) and the 2011 Pan American Games (Bronze Medal).
Urquiola led Pinar del Río to the 2015 Caribbean Series title, the first title for a Cuban team since 1960 (Cuba had just regained entrance in 2014); the team was 1-3 in the first round but won a tie-breaker with Santurce and then won their final two games.