Orlando Hernandez, the New York Yankees pitcher, has been named the GM of the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation’s entry at the 2024 Intercontinental Professional Baseball Championship in Barranquilla, Colombia. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The Cuban Professional Baseball Federation will send a team to the 2024 Intercontinental Professional Baseball Series in Barranquilla, Colombia, next January.
The CPBF, which is not affiliated with the Federacion Cubana de Beisbol, has appointed former Major League Baseball pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez as general manager.
In addition, former MLB catcher Brayan Pena was announced as the team manager that the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation will send to the upcoming 2024 Intercontinental Professional Baseball Series in Barranquilla, Colombia. The tournament’s first edition will occur from January 25 to February 1.
Hernandez enjoyed a nine-year career in Major League Baseball with the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Chicago White Sox. He defected from Cuba on Christmas day in 1997 but still has an immense passion for baseball in Cuba and is excited about the upcoming Intercontinental Professional Baseball Series.
“The responsibility is going to be very great, and we hope that they behave and play up to that moment,” Hernandez said at a press conference in Florida this past Friday. “We are going to play with love, with dedication, in the most correct way possible.”
Yussef Diaz of The Cuban Baseball Digest reports that Hernandez has yet to state the name the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation team will go by at the Intercontinental Series. For the first time, the players on the roster will not be affiliated with the FCB.
Despite having a team representing Cuba already confirmed in the tournament, event organizer Edison Renteria revealed the Cuban Baseball Federation was invited to participate. He has said that he is still waiting to receive a response.
“We thought that the presence of a Cuban team would be very good, but we have not had a response, and it is already late for this edition,” said Renteria at the press conference. “We do not rule out their participation in the future.”
If both teams were confirmed, a contest of players from Federacion Cubana de Beisbol and the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation would be intriguing. Most players who played for Cuba in the 2023 World Baseball Classic were not members of MLB organizations, with the exception of outfielder Luis Robert Jr. In comparison, the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation can bring any Cuban player from MLB who wishes to play in the Intercontinental Professional Baseball Series.
Federacion Cubana de Beisbol has historically withheld players from Cuba to play in international tournaments worldwide. In 2018, an agreement was signed between Major League Baseball, the Major League Players Association, and Federación Cubana de Beisbol that allowed Cuban players to sign with MLB organizations without having to defect. The agreement was discontinued in April of 2019.
“We are not like them; we do not say who can play or not,” Orlando Hernandez told the media. “We are not opposed to them being in Colombia and participating like everyone else.”
According to Nationworldnews.com, the hope is to have eight nations compete in the 2024 Intercontinental Professional Baseball Series. The countries rumored to compete in Colombia are Curacao, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, the United States, Cuba, and the host nation, Colombia.
“For me, this is a dream come true, to be able to see a team of Cubans and Cuban blood participate in our event in Colombia,” Renteria said at the press conference in Florida. “I am confident that they will perform at a high level and that our tournament will increase in quality with their presence.”
Renteria stated in a press release that an agreement was made to hold the Intercontinental Professional Baseball Series for the next five years. Participation from additional countries is expected by 2025.