Mandy Llanes: ” There are plenty players that want to participate in the Intercontinental Series with us.”

The Cuban Professional Baseball Federation (FEPCUBE) has slowly but surely started define their team for the Intercontinental Series. The organization which was created in March began to take the steps that will define the team that will represent a non-FCB Cuban exile ” Free Cuba” squad in Barranquilla between January 25 and February 1, 2024.

Its president Armando Llanes Jr. recently confirmed that in the process has begun to assemble a preliminary squad that will begin to take shape within the first weeks of January and also work will begin on securing the best possible financing to help train the team that will be led by Brayan Peña and will have Orlando “El Duque’ ‘Hernández as its general manager.

For the first time, a group of Antilleans not affiliated with the Cuban Baseball Federation will take part in a tournament, which sets a precedent for future competitions, but Llanes Jr has been very struck by the number of big name players from all levels of professional baseball who have stepped forward to say the are willing to take up arms for the squad.

Without a doubt, it will not be an easy task for Peña and “El Duque” to choose the players to represent this FEPCUBE team in Colombia, but they are up to the task. Mandy Llanes was recently speaking with our colleague Jorge Ebro (El Nuevo Herald) and offered him more details regarding the event.

What projects are you working on now?

On the logistics of going to Colombia. Now we have to work on raising funds, because this is a business that has expenses. The practices are going commence at the beginning of January. We are securing where they will take place, we are speaking to different venues , FIU and UM are involved in the talks. It has to be a place with optimal conditions, because we are talking about the involving player who are in the Major Leagues.

You say Major Leaguers?

When I speak of this it touches my heart. It has really moved me, because the support we are getting from those in the Major Leagues, saying count on me, really means a lot to us. But we need the community to support us, too, Ocean Bank is going to be the official bank of the FEPCUBE. It’s a little difficult for me to ask for funding, but we do need help. But I also understand we have to earn the trust of the fans, first.

How will the selection process work for the team?

Orlando Hernández and Brayan Peña, our general manager and manager, respectively, have a difficult job, because there are so many players who want to participate in this event. This is something that is going to happen for the first time in history, where a team of Cuban professionals,”Free Cubans” that will be able to represent our country.

Give us some names.

Randy Arozarena sent us a video leaving a game and saying, count on me. Jorge Soler called us. Aroldis Chapman said count on me. But we have to be realistic. Some are on a 40-man roster and we have to ask the teams for permission. We are hoping to reach out to Commissioner Rob Manfred to try to secure the participation of some of these players . I’m just saying we have to be patient. Sometimes the world goes slower than you want.

Are they happy with what you have accomplished so far?

We have accomplished a lot since March, what we want to do is represent Cuba distinguishly. We hope to start training the first two weeks of January, because many of these boys are already in shape. The hard part will be the selecting the team and the final cuts, but that’s a good problem for the Duke and for Brayan, because we have many interested parties in Double A and Triple A.

Has this support surprised you?

I would have to say yes in the sense of the players.. I always say that baseball unites us all. It is going to unite “the Cuban community. To have a “Free Cuba”we have to be united, baseball will give us that opportunity.

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