P R E FAC E
Entering the Field
I stood on the pitcher’s mound staring toward home plate.
Home had never looked farther away from me that it did on
that bright afternoon. Victor, a former baseball player him-
self, stood next to me as we took in the empty surroundings
of Estadio Latinoamericano. It was odd, really. I had stood on mounds like
this thousands of times, but had never before noticed how distant home
plate was. From the stands, sixty feet, six inches appear almost negli-
gible; a pitched ball covers the distance in a couple of seconds, at most.
Standing here now, it was as if I were staring across a canyon. I told him
how far away it looked. ‘‘That’s how you know when it’s time to leave’’
was his sage reply.
I have, for better or worse, spent my life in a love a√air with baseball. I
was taught the game by my father. From him, I learned not just the
physical motions but the emotions inherent in the game. He was my first
teacher. I have had many more since those boyhood days. I have had many
teachers throughout this project instruct me on various aspects of base-
ball, Cuba, Cuban baseball, and the qualities of home runs. Often, I did
not appreciate the lessons until after the fact, much later after the fact. I
doubt that I am unusual in this regard. That this book is so long in
coming is tantamount to my own stubbornness and ability to only appre-
ciate lessons long after they were first taught to me.
The Quality of Home Runs is about baseball as it is experienced in Cuba.
This book examines facets of Cuban baseball that embody and express
the very sense of what it means to be Cuban. In trying to address these
issues, various other questions arose that made it clear that baseball is
complexly interwoven into the rest of the fabric of Cuban society and
imagination. This book, then, is an ethnography about and situated in
Cuba. Broadly speaking, ethnographers attempt to understand events by
assuming that what is experienced and observed cannot be judged as an
isolated incident but takes place within a system of meaning generally
recognized as culture. Each event that is lived through, whether experi-