Yobal Dueñas Martínez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 215 lb.
Yobal first led the Cuban Serie Nacional in a category as a teenager. In 1990-1991, the Vegueros player tied for the league lead with four triples and with seven sacrifice hits. He hit .475 for Pinar del Río to lead the 1996 Copa de la Revolución.
Dueñas led the 1996-1997 Serie Nacional with 13 times hit by pitch (tied with two others) for Pinar del Río, helping the team take the title that year. He then paced the Copa de la Revolución with five triples.
Yobal debuted for the Cuban national team in 1997. He was 17 for 28 with 4 doubles, a triple, 2 walks, 12 runs and 8 RBI in 7 games in the 1997 World Port Tournament, won by Cuba. He was named the World Port Tournament Best Hitter. He led in average, was third in slugging (behind Orestes Kindelan and Omar Linares, two of Cuba's biggest legends), was second in OBP (.004 behind Kindelan), led in runs, tied for 4th in RBI, tied for the most doubles, was second to Kindelan in total bases and led in hits.
In the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, he hit .276/.313/.414 as Cuba's starting second baseman. Hitting 9th in the Gold Medal game, he went 0 for 3 against Koji Uehara and Hitoshi Miyata and made an error at second as Cuba was upset by Japan, 11-2. It was Cuba's first loss in the finale of a major international tournament in 15 years. Cuba had not even lost a game in a major event in six years.
Yobal had his best season in 1998-1999, hitting .418 for Pinar del Río to take the batting title; he also led with 17 intentional walks. He was with Cuba for game one of the 1999 Baltimore Orioles-Cuban National Team Exhibition Series. In the 1999 Pan American Games, he was 4 for 18 and helped Cuba take Gold and qualify for the 2000 Olympics. During the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, Dueñas hit .371/.378/.486 with 5 steals in five tries and 9 RBI. He played primarily center field this time. He hit third in the Gold Medal game and went 1 for 4 with a steal and a run but Cuba lost 4-3 in extra innings to Australia. He was 4th in the event in average (trailing Akinori Iwamura, Claudio Liverziani and David Nilsson, one of them an active major leaguer and one a future one), second in hits (13, trailing Iwamura), tied for 4th in RBI (with Michael Moyle and trailing Nilsson, Michel Enríquez and Iwamura) and led in steals. He joined Liverziani and Yuan-Chia Chen as the tournament's All-Star outfielders.
Dueñas was 6 for 18 with a walk, double, homer, four runs and five RBI in five games in the 2000 Olympics and made one error in center field, where he backed up Yasser Gómez, another future defector. He did not play in either the semifinals or Gold Medal game, which Cuba lost to Team USA. To that point, Dueñas had won only one Gold Medal in his first four major tournaments with Cuba, perhaps the worst start for a Cuban national team career through 2000.
In the 2001 Baseball World Cup, the 29-year-old hit .333/.440/.524 while splitting right field with Osmani Urrutia and backing up legendary Antonio Pacheco at second base. He had a big hit in the semifinals to put Cuba into the Gold Medal game. Hitting 7th in the Gold Medal game and starting in right, he was 0 for 2 with two walks and one run in a 5-3 Cuban win over the USA.
Yobal was 15 for 39 with five doubles, three steals and eight runs in eight games in the 2001 World Port Tournament. He led in doubles, was second in total bases (one behind Dirk van 't Klooster), was second in hits (two behind van 't Klooster), second in average (behind van 't Klooster), 3rd in slugging, 5th in OBP, second in runs (behind van 't Klooster) and tied for first in steals (with Giorvis Duvergel and Chih-Yuan Chen).
He had his brightest show on the international stage in the 2002 Intercontinental Cup, hitting .344/.361/.906 with five home runs, 9 runs and 17 RBI in 10 games. He led the Cup in homers, tied Jin-young Lee, Amaury Casanas and two others for 7th in hits (11) and led in RBI (2 ahead of runner-up Kendry Morales). In the final game, he hit a 2-run homer off Tae-hyon Chong to pull Cuba back from a 1-0 deficit and beat South Korea for the title. He was named to the tournament All-Star team as the best second baseman but lost MVP honors to teammate Bárbaro Cañizares (a future major leaguer).
From 1991-2006, Dueñas tied Pacheco and former major leaguer Greg Jelks for third-most homers in the Intercontinental Cups with six, trailing Kindelan and Linares. He was third with 31 RBI, behind Kindelan and Linares.
When the aging Dueñas was left off Cuba's roster for the 2003 Baseball World Cup, he defected from Cuba along with Maels Rodríguez through a speedboat to El Salvador. He signed with the New York Yankees.
Assigned to the GCL Yankees, the 32-year-old was 2 for 11 with a walk in 2004. In '05, he hit .271/.303/.391 as a utility man for the Trenton Thunder and failed in all five steal attempts and was 0 for 6 for the Columbus Clippers.
Let go by New York, Dueñas batted .286/.297/.476 with 13 runs in 15 games for the 2006 San Luis Potosi Tuneros to wrap up his career.
Overall, Yobal hit .266/.295/.393 in 97 minor league games and .321/.365/.477 in 5,576 plate appearances in Cuba. He stole 133 bases in 226 tries, 282 doubles and 136 homers, fielding .974. Through 2009, he was 5th in post-1962 Cuba in sacrifice hits (117) and 4th in double play grounders (196), the only top-10 categories he made.