From the cover of Full Count: . Author’s Collection park. Rodriguez had a sore arm, his career was going nowhere, and he was unsure when or if he’d see his family again. “It means leaving all that behind your friends, your childhood, aunts, uncles, brothers, everything to come here, by yourself and to struggle in a different world to try to reach a point where you can be successful and help your family.” Most writers would have left Rodriguez’ story there, in the forlorn stands of a minor league park in Montana. But Jamail completed the picture, by trudging to Rodriguez’ home town, an hour’s drive west of Havana. There he found the player’s grandfather, a man in his mid-nineties, who told Jamail he’d like to visit his grandson: “I just don’t want to go on a raft.” It is unlikely the elderly man will see his grandson again, for no reunion can occur until the U.S. ends its forty-year embargo against Cuba an event Jamail does not see on the near horizon. The reason, as anyone who followed the sad, strange saga of little Dian must be aware, is that the embargo has little to do with ridding Cuba of Castro, and everything to do with appeasing the politically potent CubanAmerican community. But above all, Full Count is a baseball fan’s book. Jamail made six trips to Cuba during the nineties, and seems never to have tired of chatting up anyone anywhere about his passion their passion. No such book would be complete without the author making a run at the Holy Grail of Cuban baseball ques tions: Was Fidel a legit prospect? Jamail queries any number of experts, but I like best his serendipitous encounter with an old guy selling newspapers in Havana’s Parque Central; the fellow had played high school ball against his future Comandante. “Even though he played first base, he was really a pitcher,” the man recalled. “What were Fidel’s best pitches?” Jamail asked. “He had a great curve ball on the outside corner. And a low breaking ball that came in on the knees. And he had great control. He always had great control.” Bill Adler, the Observer ‘s Big Bend bureau chief is at work on a radio drama about semi-pro baseball in West Texas in the years following World War II. JULY 21, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 35
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