Cuban Serie Nacional
The Serie Nacional de Béisbol is the primary domestic amateur baseball competition in Cuba. Formed after the dissolution of the professional Cuban League in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, the series is a part of the Cuban national baseball system.
The serie currently has sixteen teams organized into two zonas (zones), Occidental and Oriental, which are in turn split into two grupos (groups). Each of Cuba's 14 provinces has a team as does the special municipality Isla de la Juventud, with Ciudad de La Habana having two clubs, for a total of sixteen teams.
The league has a 90-game schedule which runs from November though April. Each team plays each other team six teams. The season is then followed by a 3-tiered of playoff that culminates in a national championship. An all-star game, between the league's zonas, has been played since the 1997-1998 season, although it had been played in earlier seasons. In the past, the winning team has played versus a teams from the Mexican League. This series has been played each winter since 1962.
At the end of the regular season in mid-April, the three-round playoffs begin. Eight teams qualify for the playoffs, split into two brackets by zona. The two grupo winners in each zona quaIify along with two wildcard teams, which are the two non-grupo winners with the best records. The first Cuartos de final series, the grupo winner with the best record plays versus the wildcard team with the worst record, while the other in the matchup has the other grupo winner playing the best wildcard team. All series in this round are best-of-seven. The winners meet in the Semifinals to determine the zona champion; this round is best-of- seven. The winners of the Semifinals then play versus each other in the best-of-seven Final to determine the league champion.
Each team is allowed to have thirty players on its roster with nearly all of the players from the team's home province. There are no foreigners allowed in the league, no free agency, and very little player movement as all player contracts are signed with the league rather than the individual team. In rare instances, a player may be granted a transfer in instances, such as family relocation. Salaries range between the equivalent of US$120 and US$175 per month, with an average of US$135, paid in pesos (which unlike the convertible peso has no value outside Cuba). Players at the very top are sometimes rewarded with luxuries from the government, such as homes; although examples of this are few.
The Cuban baseball system is designed as much to develop the nation's athletic talents as to provide entertainment to the public. Children showing athletic promise are sent to sports academies for extensive competitive training and development, with the goal of developing the nation's athletes. Some players are able to make the municipal team and advance through the sport without training in the academies, but those players are exceptional. Although players are amateurs, elite players are subsidized and given special rewards. A problem confronting Cuba's top athletes, however, is the lack of opportunities to compete against the best players in the world. An opportunity for competition against the world's best professional players was finally made available by the World Baseball Classic first held in March 2006.
The Serie Nacional (National Series) currently has sixteen teams, divided into two zonas which are in turn split into two grupos. although as recently as 1992 there were eighteen teams.
Unlike most leagues, Serie Nacional teams have no official nicknames but are instead named for their province, with the two Ciudad de La Habana teams being the notable exceptions. However, over the years "unofficial" nicknames and mascots have been attached by local fans or media organizations and are now increasingly found in the Cuban press. It is also common for a team to have more than one nickname simultaneously.
- The special municipality of Isla de La Juventud was known as Isla de Pinos until 1978, therefore the Pinar del Río team played the 1977-1978 season as Isla de Pinos.
- Michael Lewis: "Commie Ball: A Journey to the End of the Revolution", Vanity Fair, July 2008.