Enrique Esteban Díaz
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Enrique Esteban Díaz Martínez (La Bala de Centro Habana, Kiki)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 209 lb.
Díaz first came to light in 1986-1987, when the teenager swiped 22 bases for the Metropolitanos to lead the Serie Nacional. In 1989-1990, the middle infielder led with 31 steals and tied for the lead with five triples.
Enrique only stole 22 bases in 1994-1995 but led the league. In 1995-1996, he led in runs (76, tied with Juan Manrique), triples (8) and swipes (35). In the Copa de la Revolución, he led in runs (38) and stolen bases (12).
Díaz led the league with 59 runs and 35 steals in 1999-2000. The speedster led with 44 swipes in 2000-2001. In 2002-2003, he not only led with 28 steals but scored 100 runs for the Industriales, breaking Paret's record of 99. The feat went unnoticed in the USA; Baseball America's writeup of the season in their 2004 Baseball Almanac focused almost entirely on defections and ignored the record.
In 2003-2004, he hit the game-winning, game-ending double to cap the finals with a victory for the Industriales. The veteran had stolen 20 bases in the regular season to lead the league for the last time; he only tied for the lead this time.
Through 2004, Enrique was 6th in league history with 1,183 runs, 8th with 1,005 walks and first in steals (625, 37 ahead of Victor Mesa) and triples (84).
While never a member of Cuba's "A" squad national team, he represented the country in the 2004 Haarlem Baseball Week. He hit .273/.407/.273 with 3 steals and a team-high 5 runs in six games. He tied for 3rd in the event in runs (trailing Ralph Milliard and Takashi Yoshiura) and tied Chih-Yao Chan for second in steals, one behind the much younger Milliard.
Díaz hit .313/.452/.386 in 2007-2008 and was still running at times, with 11 steals in 18 tries. While the old-timer had slowed to the point where he was almost a full-time DH, he was still hitting leadoff for the Industriales and led the team in swipes despite an outfield trio noted for speed (Yasser Gómez, Carlos Tabares and Yoandry Urgellés). He topped 2,000 career hits and was now at 93 triples, 1,425 runs (second to Omar Linares) and 687 stolen bases.
Returning to the Metropolitanos for 2008-2009, Enrique was starting his 23rd season in Cuba, more than all his position player teammates combined (18 years). He still was productive, batting .325/.452/.356 with 76 walks (6th in the circuit) to 33 strikeouts. He was just 7-for-15 in steal attempts at age 40. Playing second base regularly again, he fielded .980.
Díaz was showing his age in 2009-2010 when the 41-year-old hit only .235/.385/.277 as a DH. He was still durable, one of only 7 players to appear in all 90 games that year. He tied José Dariel Abreu for 4th in the loop with 74 walks. In 2010-2011, the DH rebounded to .282/.320/.426 with 66 walks, third in the league behind only Frederich Cepeda and Alexander Mayeta.
On March 6, 2011-2012, Enriquito tied Antonio Pacheco as Cuba's all-time hit leader at 2,356. He got the hit in dramatic fashion, breaking up a no-hitter by Reinier Verano in the 6th inning. He broke the record the next day, with a single off Julio Martinez Wong in the third to break a scoreless tie.