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Cuban Catcher Yunior Ibarra Returns To Kitchener Panthers

 Matt Tallarini  |    Apr 25th, 2024 7:00pm EDT

Cuban baseball players exercise. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE / AFP) (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kitchener Panthers re-signed Cuban catcher Yunior Ibarra for the 2024 Intercounty Baseball League regular season in Canada, the team reported on April 23.

Ibarra, 29, was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, and has played 10 seasons in Serie Nacional and the Cuban Elite League. Ibarra has played with the Gallos de Sancti Spiritus from 2013-21 and the 2022 regular season in Serie Nacional. Ibarra played in the Elite League during its first winter league season with the Ganaderos in 2022-23.

Ibarra also played with the Gallos de Sancti Spiritus in the second year of the Elite League in the 2023-24 winter league season.

Last winter league season in Cuba, Ibarra batted .213, playing in 32 games with 96 plate appearances, smacking 17 hits, three doubles, one home run, 17 RBI, 10 walks, and nine strikeouts.

He played for the Cuban national team at the 2023 PanAmerican Games in Santiago, Chile, last October. He started in three games, had six at-bats, did not record a hit, struck out twice, and drew one hit-by-pitch.

During the 2023 regular season, his first season playing in Canada with the Kitchener Panthers, Ibarra played in 35 games with 126 at-bats, hitting .270, ripping 34 hits, four doubles, three home runs, 21 RBI, 13 walks, and 17 strikeouts. The Kitchener Panthers lost in the 2023 best-of-three semifinal series in three games to the Barrie Baycats.

Ibarra had 278 putouts and 23 assists last season behind the dish.

In the 2023 IBL playoffs, Ibarra played eight games and batted .308 with 26 at-bats, recording eight hits, three RBI, four walks, and three strikeouts.

Ibarra started in six games at the 2022 Caribbean Cup in the Bahamas at Andre Rodgers Stadium for the Cuban national team and batted .167 with 12 at-bats, scored one run, recorded two hits, and drew four hit-by-pitches. Cuba lost to Puerto Rico 9-4 in the gold medal game at the 2022 Caribbean Cup.

During the 2022-23 Elite League regular season with the Ganaderos, Ibarra batted .180 with 69 plate appearances and smacked 11 hits, three doubles, four RBI, five walks, and seven strikeouts.

Ibarra will be evaluated to play in the Premier12 tournament for the Cuban national team this November. The World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier12 event will be from November 10-24 after the regular seasons in Major League Baseball, the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, the Korean Baseball Organization, and the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan.

Cuba is ranked No. 8 in the World Baseball Rankings from the WBSC.

The Kitchener Panthers will play the Hamilton Cardinals on May 16 at home at Jack Couch Park in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, at 7:30 p.m. EST in their first 2024 IBL regular season game.