It had been more than two decades since Alexis Cabrejas, 47, last saw some of his former teammates, members of Los Industriales in the Cuban National Series.
Players currently living in Cuba and others who competed on the island but left for the United States reunited on Saturday to celebrate the baseball team’s 50th anniversary at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.
Catcher Pedro Medina, who played from 1972 to 1988, still lives in Havana. He pitched for the blue team on Saturday.
“The significance is that it’s very important,” Medina said in Spanish. “These players that defended the same flag are reuniting under the same name — Los Industriales. It’s been a pleasure for me. We had a great time. I think that the people here have really taken to us, and it’s very moving that people haven’t forgotten about us after all this time.”
Founded in Havana in 1962, los leones have won 12 championships — the last in 2010.
Their success often gets them compared to Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees. Stadiums easily sell out their games, and most fans outside the country’s capital root against them.
Former big-leaguers Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Livan Hernandez played for los azules. So did current Seattle Mariners first baseman Kendrys Morales and Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar.
“I’m very proud of that, playing for the best team in Cuba,” said Cabrejas, who has lived in Weston since 1992. “Being a part of that was amazing.”
The blue team, consisting of players still living in Cuba, led the white team, players who immigrated to the United States, 3-0 before rain halted play with no outs in the bottom of the third.
Second baseman Rey Vicente Anglada drove in one of two second-inning runs.
Medina pitched two-plus scoreless innings with one strikeout. Though there was no radar gun, batters from the white team thought his velocity ranged from 80 to 85 mph.
A protestor ran onto the field with one out in the top of the third before police tackled and detained him.
The games were initially scheduled for Aug. 10-11 at Florida International University but were canceled because of anticipated hostile demonstrations. Last week, the teams competed in Tampa.
“Cubans are very passionate about the national pastime,” said Lazaro Vargas, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. “It signifies the passion of the Cuban people.”