Cuba's underground window into American baseball
By Scott McLean, CNN
Havana, Cuba (CNN)On a sun-beaten suburban ballpark in Havana, young Little Leaguers line up to bat in front of a chain-link backstop missing its chain-links. Home plate is a beat-up piece of plywood and no two players wear matching shirts, let alone uniforms.
The lack of resources doesn't mean lack of ambition. Some dream of playing Major League Baseball -- following in the footsteps of Cuban defectors like Orlando Hernandez or Yasiel Puig.
But in a country where television is state-run, and Internet is expensive and slow, actually watching those Cuban stars in the Major Leagues is tough.
On Cuban TV, it's still rare to see a Cuban player in the weekly MLB broadcast, but in the past year it has happened a few times. Before then, Cuban players would literally be edited out of the games before they went to air. Short supply has created high demand for MLB coverage -- especially games involving Cuban players.
Enter "el paquete," -- bought, sold and traded in Cuba's underground market for American media. Paquete is the word Cubans use to describe the USB sticks, hard drives, DVDs or sometimes even VHS tapes loaded up with American TV shows, movies and baseball games and sent to the island nation.
Cubans will pay a few convertible pesos (on par with the US dollar) to get what's on the latest paquete. Those baseball games, movies and TV shows are sometimes copied and re-sold several times. Often, by the time they trickle down to the masses, they're out of date.
"They don't care [that the games are old], they just want to see the stars," said baseball writer Ray Otero who runs the website BaseballdeCuba.com.