Star ballplayer Frederich Cepeda Cruz will be among the Cubans attending their fourth Pan American Games in this year in Toronto.
Born April 8, 1980, Cepeda is one of three natives of the Caribbean island travelling from Japan, where he plays in the Nippon Professional League, to join the team managed by Roger Machado to compete for Pan American victory.
Nearly ambidextrous, he is considered among Cuba’s best hitters of all time. Also playing in the Nippon league is the young pitcher Hector Mendoza, Cepeda’s partner in the Yomiuri Giants, as well as the tough slugger Alfredo Despaigne with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
“It will always be an honour to represent my country. There is no greater glory for a Cuban athlete than to have those four letters on his uniform,” the iconic athlete told JIT in the central province of Sancti Spiritus.
Since his debut in the National Series in the 1997-1998 season, Cepeda demonstrated a talent that led him to play with an elite group at international events for just over a decade.
A two-time Olympic medalist (gold and silver) with two world titles, Cepeda was also 2006 World Baseball Classic runner-up and All-Star outfielder in 2009.
His record in 18 National Series is 1,549 games, with a batting average of .329, the result of 1,740 hits in 5,284 at-bats. He has a total of 340 doubles, 53 triples and 265 home runs.
In Japan he batted a .279 average, with a .574 slugging percentage (SLG) and .380 on base percentage (OBP).
Cepeda and the other Cuban players will return home in the coming days and travel on June 28 to the United States, where the Cuban squad will play five games against the Collegiate National Team at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, from July 1 to 6.
He will also oppose the U.S. team in the Americas Baseball Festival from July 6 to 8. The U.S. and Canadian picks for Toronto games will also be at the festival.
Other Cubans arriving at the games from competition outside the country are the right-handed pitcher Ismel Jimenez and shortstop Yordan Manduley, who play for the Québec Capitales.
Cuba has participated in 15 baseball tournaments at the Pan American Games and has 12 top prizes along with second, third and fourth place finishes.
The title was won last on Canadian soil in 199 with heavy hitter Omar Linares’ dramatic home run.