"If travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it's a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end." — Pico Iyer, "Why We Travel"
I discovered the hidden universe of Cuban League baseball in February 1997, during my first research trip to the communist island with Mark Rucker. It couldn't have come at a better time, since I like so many traditional fans had become by the mid-nineties quite jaded about a major league baseball world cheapened by noisy spectacle, greedy players, and profit-minded club owners. Increasingly distasteful was the MLB fare of disconnected and overprice superstar celebrities, supermall stadiums, and a big league game filled with the din of rock music and endless commercialism. Suddenly opened before me in February 1997 was a new baseball universe which retained all the cherished pastoral pleasures, childlike-enthusiasms, intimate ballparks and raw excitement of the game that Americans had once celebrated a half-century ago. American professional baseball is a staged entertainment spectacle (truly a circus) while Cuban baseball remains an untarnished game.
For the past decade I have become a relentless convert to the world of Cuban League baseball. It is indeed a unique universe in which all the ballclubs represent geographinal regions, ballplayers remain afixed to their native province clubs and are never traded, all players receive equivalent salaries, and the athletes truly play for love of the sport and not for economic reward. My ten years of travel in Cuba have taken me to all the island's league ballparks and to more than one hundred Cuban League games; I have followed the Cuban national team to dozens of international tournament games (most recently the World Cup in Rotterdam and the World Baseball Classic in San Juan and San Diego); and I have had the rare opportunity to make numerous media appearances in Cuba commenting on the island's cherished national pastime. In February 2001 my extensive studio interview on Cubavision with commentator Carlos Hernández Luján represented an historic first-ever appearance of an American on Cuban national television to comment "live" on Cuban League baseball.
"No Reservations Cuba" with Anthony Bourdain
In March 2011 author Peter Bjarkman appeared in the Havana episode of chef Anthony Bourdain's popular "No Reservations" — a regular Travel Channel feature aired for eight seasons. Bjarkman appears in three episode scenes — visiting a Havana little league championship baseball match with Tony, interpreting for Tony during a lively discussion of the Cuban national pastime with fans in Havana's historic Central Park, and attending a Cuban League game with Tony in historic Latin American Stadium. Links are provided in the left-side column of this page for several episodes as well as for the YouTube posting of the entire program. "No Reservations Cuba" first aired on July 11, 2011 and is now available as part of the "Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Collection 7" DVD (subtitled as "Forbidden Detour to Cuba and Beyond").
Freelance author Peter C. Bjarkman has been branded as the "Peter Gammons and Bill James of Cuban baseball" and is the leading internet commentator on the Cuban national pastime. Bjarkman has been observing baseball throughout Cuba (with over 40 trips to the island) and trailing the Cuban national team to major international tournaments since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The author appears regularly on www. BaseballdeCuba.com and numerous other related internet sites covering international baseball.
Internet Baseball Columns
Bjarkman began writing for www.BaseballdeCuba.com during coverage of the July 2007 Pan American Games and has been the featured columnist for that leading site (writing mainly in English) for the past three years. He has also maintained a presence as baseball commentator for such Cuba-based on-line outlets as Havana Times (English and Spanish on-line pages), the IBAF (International Baseball Federation) website, the Prensa Latina English-language page, and the Radio COCO Havana website. Interested readers are invited to visit Peter C. Bjarkman's ongoing Cuban baseball commentaries and analyses regularly found at numerous American (USA), European and Cuban-based website links.
Press Stories Promoting Peter C. Bjarkman
1. “’No Reservations’ on Cuba baseball for author” (Q&A feature with Peter Bjarkman) (by Tim Brouk) in: The Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier (June 13, 2011), A8. (Bjarkman interview regarding Travel Channel appearance with Anthony Bourdain)
2. “Inside Baseball: This Yanqui is Welcome in Cuba’s Locker Room” (by Christopher Rhoads) in: Wall Street Journal (November 9, 2010), 1/A16. (Front page story with iconic WSJ “Hedcut” )
3. “¡Viva el Béisbol! From Professor of Linguistics to Cuban Baseball Expert” (Bjarkman Profile in “9 to 5, Act II: Alumni Tell Us How Their Career Paths Have Diverged”) in: Observer: The Magazine of the University of Hartford, Spring 2010, 22.
4. “Un batazo que estremeció también a México” (by Raúl Arce) in: Juventud Rebelde (March 12, 2009), 7. (Cuban press story discussing Bjarkman’s predictions for WBC II)
5. “De puurheid van het spel – Amerikaan volgt Cubaans tean op de voet” (Peter Bjarkman Cuba-watcher in Haarlem) (by Bart Slegers) in: Haarlemsdagblad (July 12, 2008) (Dutch press feature story about an American reporting on Cuban baseball)
6. “Mr. Peter Bjarkman: historia del béisbol cubano” (Spanish article) (by Dr. José de Jesús Jiménez) in: La Información (Deportes 2B), November 10, 2007.
7. “Un libro exquisito: 143 años de pelota cubana” (by Raúl Arce) in: Juventud Rebelde (June 13, 2007), 7. (Cuban press interview promoting Bjarkman’s writings)
8. “The lore of baseball—Local author restores the history of Cuban ‘béisbol’ in ‘Smoke’” (by John Norberg) in: The Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier (February 5, 2000), B5-B6.
9. “Béisbol: A History—Lafayette-based author visited Cuba three times to write ‘Smoke,’ a volume on baseball in its most pristine form” (by Dan Carpenter) in: The Indianapolis Star (October 19, 1999), E1-E2.
10. “Sports’ Prolific Man of Letters” (by Conrad Brunner) in: The Indianapolis Star/News (August 11, 1998), A1-A2.
11. “Crackin’ ‘em … Outta Here! No one gets down the line quicker than Peter ‘Dr. Baseball’ Bjarkman” (by Kevin Cullen) in: The Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier (May 3, 1995), B1-2.
12. “He owns a bit of baseball by writing about it (Profile of Peter C. Bjarkman)” (by Marc D. Allen) in: The Indianapolis Star (May 14, 1995), J3.
13. “Peter Bjarkman—aka Dr. Baseball” (by Robert Cannon) in: Sports Collectors Digest. 20:16 (April 16, 1993), 174-177.
14. “It’s not just a ball game, you bum, it’s art, religion (Profile of Peter C. Bjarkman)” (by John Shaughnessy) in: The Indianapolis Star (June 20, 1986), 17.
15. “Why time begins on opening day – Professor says baseball reflects American culture” (by Mark Curnutte) in: The Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier (April 7, 1986), C1.