Photos: Ricardo López Hevia
Rey Vicente Anglada Ferrer, 67, is not a magician. If he’s come so far, it’s because he believes in people and in their values, always giving his best and having consistent ideas.
“At this point, nobody can tell me what to do. I act on what I think, with my conscience and my principles. And my principles have nothing to do with ideological issues, nor with communism or socialism. I learned my principles at home, from my mother,” he says.
Born in Havana, Anglada was a showman in the ’70s before being marginalized for 20 years and reborn as one of this century’s most winning coaches. He is characterized as being a man of his word, a man who swings at each question with the same explosiveness that captivated millions of fans.
Why do so many people say they used to go to the stadium just to see you play?
We’d have to ask them. I really enjoyed the games. I tried hard to get to all the balls. If I got a hit I wanted it to be a two-baser. If I got to second base, I wanted it to be a triple… I think that’s why fans express themselves like that about me.
It may also have something to do with the times. Before, everything was different. There were no professional players, we slept in bunk beds, we had a hard time; but we played our hearts out and there was better quality. In every team there were four or five great pitchers and many other players that fans followed even when they were in last place.
Today it’s not like that anymore. Baseball and life have changed a lot—I think for the better. Paradoxically, that’s not reflected in the game. For example, now the players eat well, there’s good transportation, they sleep in hotels… If we go by that, our baseball should be superior in quality. But I think the players have gotten too comfortable.
When we talk about the way you played, the common factor is explosiveness. Did that come naturally to you or did someone teach you?
I played to the max. My personality has to do with it, of course, but only partly, because I was also lucky to train with great coaches like Jesús Ayón, Heberto Blanco, Pedro Chávez, and Roberto Ledo. They were professionals, they saw baseball differently, because they fed their families with the work they did. They instilled that sense of sacrifice, taught us to love our team, to fight for the person next to us and to view anyone who acted as less than that as an enemy on the field.
With your qualities, could you have played professionally?
I would have liked to, but at that time you couldn’t dream of the Major Leagues. Going there meant leaving your country, your family, everything. So, no, it wasn’t a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Playing professionally would have been the best, not only economically speaking, but also because everyone would like to see how they fare in the big leagues.
Do you think that the players who are leaving Cuba today don’t make the same sacrifices you did?
It’s still a risk today, but the conditions are different. First, many of them go legally and then they can still share with their families, there and here. Before, it used to be that whoever decided to go, had to leave everything behind.
There’s the example of Barbarito Garbey, who left Cuba in 1980 and didn’t come back for 32 years. That’s a tremendous sacrifice, and I wouldn’t have taken such a risk. I’m an only child and I would never have left my mother behind, knowing that I might never see her again.
Did you ever want to erase baseball from your life?
I thought about it, when they took me out of the Series. I didn’t watch the games, I didn’t follow the championship, I didn’t feel anything for baseball. But then I started working with children and that little itch resurfaced. It’s like something in your blood and you can’t totally push it aside.
You were imprisoned1, called corrupt, unworthy, a gambler… How do you remember those times?
It was hard, very hard, uncomfortable. They are moments that mark you, but I was still a young man—I was 29 years old and at that age I could endure any situation, you can erase things with time and you move on. I was mostly concerned about my mom.
I lost my dad when I was five years old, and my mother and I were very close. Facing all that pain and seeing how my reputation was trampled, that was the hardest part, for my mother and my family.
You once said that your only fault was playing like a pro.
It’s true. Those were difficult times because of the ways of thinking, and many people linked to INDER [the National Institute for Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation] didn’t like the way I played. They said that I dressed like a professional, that I acted like a professional, that scouts were approaching me… Why was that my fault? In those times, that was a sin.
Has that wound healed?
No, it cannot be healed. I’m going to take it to the grave.
Do you think your vindication, so to speak, took too long?
It doesn’t matter. I was out of the highest level of Cuban baseball for over 20 years, and when I returned as a manager, I did it so that people would realize that I never had anything to do with what had happened. No one who had been accused of so many things would have been readmitted like they did with me.
Unfortunately, my mother was no longer living. I would have liked her to have seen it, but she’s seeing it from wherever she is. My wife didn’t want me to [return to baseball], but I convinced her that it was time to prove a few things. That’s why I decided to take the job. I don’t like to lead, but that opportunity appeared in my path and thankfully everything went quite well.
Who is the best player you have coached?
There are many. I’ve worked with superstars. Kendrys Morales debuted with me, for example, and he was a machine. I also had Yulieski Gurriel on the Cuban national team; Osmani Urrutia; Cepeda, who’s exceptional in many ways. And in Havana, there’s Malleta, Rudy Reyes… It’s hard to name just one.
You mention players from all over Cuba and many of them speak wonders of you. What’s the secret to working with people from so many places without regionalism prevailing?
There’s no secret. The main thing is precisely not to be regionalist. I’m not, and I always attack that; it angers me, because it has brought us many problems throughout history. I think it’s also important to give everyone what they deserve. I never stood before a player thinking that I was from Havana and he was from Las Tunas; on the contrary, we’re all Cuban.
And what does being Cuban mean to you?
To be Cuban is to love our country, to love ourselves in good times and bad, because we’ve had many uncomfortable situations. We must defend our flag and our shield, all together, that is being Cuban.
That criterion of “all together” is not often put into practice among Cubans. Why not?
Sometimes we talk about becoming more united, both here and there, but in the end there’s no decision. We want to, but we don’t want to. We have to take the step, and welcome each other as Cubans, because so much division is painful.
I’ve always spoken up for maintaining good relations, especially in the case of baseball. Cubans playing in the Major Leagues shouldn’t be rejected—the guys I’ve had the chance to speak with in the United States are willing to represent our country.
Nor should we look down upon those who play in Cuba. We all have ties, which should never have been broken.
My son is an example—he left Cuba at age 23 and crossed the US-Mexico border without telling us anything; and that’s why I was upset at him, because he broke the trust we had. Then he told me that he hadn’t wanted me to turn my back on him. I told him that he was wrong: as his father, I could never turn my back on him. We, as Cubans, cannot turn our backs on each other either.
Everyone is responsible for their own decisions and the fundamental thing is to learn to respect different ways of thinking. We can coexist and even be friends with different ideals. We don’t have to think alike, but we do have to respect each other.
Has baseball been unfair to Anglada?
When I was a player, yes, and I’m not just talking about the suspension. Many times I was left out from the national team because there were doubts and distrust about me. They thought that I could stay and participate in some international tournament, but life is such that many of those people who didn’t trust me, are now themselves living out of the country, and I’m still here. Unfortunately, that has happened with many players.
As a manager, I wouldn’t say that any injustices were committed, but I do believe that things were poorly handled before the Beijing Olympics. If you look back, we lost there and in Sydney, and in both cases the same thing happened. In 1999, Alfonso Urquiola’s team won the Pan American Games and went to the Olympics, and then the team was given to Servio Borges.
The same thing happened to me. We won the Pan Americans, qualified for Beijing and then the team was given to Pacheco. It’s true that he’d been a champion with Santiago, but it disrupted all the work we had been doing with a group of players that were already adapted to my methods.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a normal guy, as a person who gave everything he had (and even what he didn’t have) for baseball. I would like to be remembered for my Cubanness, which is in my blood. But, above all, I’d like to be remembered as a good person, because the player and the coach depart, but the person remains forever.
Rey Vicente Anglada (b. Havana, January 6, 1953):
He played in ten National Series between 1972 and 1982. He hit 40 homeruns. He is in the record book of Cuban baseball with two consecutive homeruns in one inning (against Matanzas, on April 12, 1980). In his last five seasons he was among the best hitters in the National and Selective Series.
He wore number 36 for these teams: Industriales, Agricultores, Metropolitanos, and Habana (select team).
He was part of the National Preselection Team between 1974 and 1981. He participated in the 1976 and 1978 World Cups, in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Medellin in 1978, and in the Pan American Games in Puerto Rico in 1979. In these last two he was the All Stars’ second baseman.
Starting in 2001, he coached Havana’s teams in the Nationals, Super Leagues, and in the Cuban Sports Olympiad. He obtained three national titles with the flagship Cuban baseball team: the Industriales (2003, 2004, and 2006).
He coached the Cuban national team from 2006 to 2008. In 2018 he returned to take charge of the Industriales team, which he directed for two seasons. He recently announced that he would withdraw from that position of his own accord.
- In 1982, at the peak of his career, he was expelled from baseball. He was accused, along with 16 other athletes and trainers, of being part of a gambling network. Anglada never accepted the accusation.