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Jose Alejandro Catala Higueras
Being able to pitch a perfect game is something extremely difficult. It is a coveted feat in any league or category; moreover, if it is achieved by a junior player taking part in a senior tournament, such an accomplishment becomes a sensation. The man in question will turn 17 next November 1, he is a lefthander and his name is Jose Alejandro Catala Higueras.

The youth is a student at the Las Tunas province's Carlos Leyva Sports Initiation School. When he was playing in the 13-14 year old category, he was recruited by the Las Tunas municipal team, which is now leading the 31st provincial baseball league.

The feat was registered on Saturday June 16th at the Batalla de Palo Seco Stadium with a score of 6-0, when the Las Tunas squad faced that of Jobabo. Catala was the starting pitcher in the second game of a double-game day.

But his masterly performance could have been spoiled early in the game. By the end of the first inning, the top man in the Jobabo squad line-up was given three balls in a row; however, the rookie pitcher got over the situation and struck him out. And the last man he faced, the great Yordanis Alarcon , made him live through seconds of uncertainty after batting a hard line drive to the left field that was caught by the fence.

I had a conversation with the young sportsman at his home's living-room in Las Tunas city. He still looks a little bit nervous after such a significant triumph.

"I want to dedicate this successful game to my father Jose Carlos Catala, who was loyal baseball fan and whose dream was that I became a good baseball player," he said visibly moved by the memory of his father, who recently passed away.

When you realized of the possibility of a perfect game, which batters did you take more care with?

"I respect all the rival batters, but I paid more attention to the Alarcon brothers, specially Yordanis, a man of proven quality.

"After having closed the fifth inning the coaches were told that they should not replace me as I was on to pitching a perfect game. However hard I tried to calm down, the pressure to get successfully the last six outs was huge."

Jose Alejandro has become the second local pitcher to achieve a perfect game in the history of provincial baseball championships. The other was Jose Rafael Santana, also playing with the Las Tunas municipality team in 2005 against Puerto Padre with a 4-0 score.

How have you been during the present provincial baseball season and what are principal tools for facing batters?

"I feel very happy because Jorge Hierrezuelo, the manager, has trusted me to work as a starter. So far I have fulfilled that responsibility well. I have earned two wins and no defeat, and a point for saved games, with only one unearned run in 15 innings.

"I base my pitching on control and a sinkerball which usually gets me out of trouble, although I use curveballs from different angles and a fastball that I have to combine with other pitches because it only reaches 81 miles per hour."

This 1.72-meter-tall youth, who weigh 65 kilograms, began to play baseball as a fielder, but always cherished the dream of becoming a pitcher. He was part of the local 15-16 year-old team in 2006 and in 2007 he made the eastern-region junior squad but in both cases he never won or lost, as a reliever.

I do not have any doubt that this teenager has the talent to become one of the province's best senior team pitchers and his future possibilities stem mainly from his great love for baseball, his discipline and his wish to be among the nation's best players.

What are your plans for the future?

"Well, I am going to work hard to become a good pitcher. At the moment, it would be a a personal triumph if I can join the Caneros squad for the second category National Baseball Series, in which I would help the team retain the title it won last year.

"I am young, I am just beginning my career, and I will advantage all the opportunities I a given. Time will say how far I can get."

Without being absolute, I can assure that if Jose Alejandro, who is the grandson of Alejandro Higueras, one of the best local baseball players in the 1960s, keeps being as disciplined and dedicated as he currently is, he can become a star pitcher.

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