Omar Linares, Alfredo Despaigne and Yoenis Céspedes (left to right)
|Pan American Games|
|1995 Mar del Plata||Team|
|Baseball World Cup|
Omar Linares Izquierdo (born October 23, 1967 in San Juan y Martínez, Pinar del Río Province, Cuba) is a former Cuban baseball player. Linares, who played third base for the Cuban national team and for Pinar del Río and Vegueros in the Cuban National Series wearing the number 10 on his jersey, is considered[by whom?] one of the greatest Cuban players of all time. Linares's first steps in the world of sports were as a track and field athlete where he was considered[by whom?] a promising star at a young age. Linares soon decided to follow the steps of his father Fidel Linares in the world of baseball. He is well known in Cuba for having started a baseball career at a very young age. It is to Cuban baseball broadcaster Bobby Salamanca to whom it is attributed the popularity of Linares's nickname "El Niño" (The Kid) after Linares impressed Salamanca with his baseball skills as a teen being called to the roster of Cuban national team being only 17, it is to former manager Jose Miguel Pineda that Linares attributes the authority of his nickname in 1982. After a career as a player in Cuba, Linares along with other Cuban baseball stars such as Antonio Pacheco, Orestes Kindelan and German Mesa in coordination with the Cuban national baseball commission decided to give it a try in the Nippon Professional Baseball. Linares went on to spending three unproductive seasons with the Chunichi Dragons wearing the number 44 on his jersey to later after return to Cuba. In 2009 Linares decided to become a batting coach and first base coach for longtime rival team Industriales helping them to conquer a national championship (his first as an assistant coach). Although Linares never received an official retiring ceremony, the season of 2001–2002 is considered to be his last appearance in Cuban National Baseball Series.
Career in Cuba
Linares spent 20 seasons with Pinar del Río in Cuba's National Series, compiling a career .368 batting average, the best in the league's history, with 404 home runs (third among all-times in Cuban league), 1,547 runs batted in and 264 stolen bases.
He led the National Series in batting average four times, in RBIs four times and in walks six times.
As a 14-year-old, Linares was the starting second baseman for the Cuban National youth team at the world championship, where they got the gold. His debut in Cuban national baseball series at the age of 14 was marked by his father's decision of not allowing him to play with Forestales (second team of Pinar del Río) on road games, therefore Linares only played home games that year. The inclusion of Linares in the Cuban national team at the age of 17 as an optional replacement of slugger Jose "Cheito" Rodriguez short after a controversial suspension of "Cheito" by the Cuban National baseball commission is attributed to former manager Jose Miguel Pineda. After being called up, Linares was a mainstay on the Cuban national baseball team under the guidance of baseball star Luis Giraldo Casanova during much of the 1980s and 1990s, as the starting third baseman on world championship winning teams in 1986, 1988, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2001. He was part of Cuba's Olympic gold medal teams in 1992 and 1996, and the silver medal team in 2000. Linares also played for the Cuban national team in the 1999 Baltimore Orioles – Cuban national baseball team exhibition series.
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Linares's full name is Omar Linares Izquierdo. He is the son of former Cuban baseball player Fidel Linares and Francisca "Panchita" Izquierdo. Omar has three daughters, one from his first marriage and two from his second marriage with current wife Dianelys. He has been recalled as a very soft-spoken and shy individual. He has always proclaimed his love for his family as he also refers to the loss of his father as the saddest experience of his life.
In 2002 Juan A. Martinez de Osaba y Goneaga, a baseball enthusiast and annalist, published a book called El niño Linares as part of his tribute to Cuban baseball, especially to those players born in Pinar del Río Province. The book is believed[by whom?] to be the closest and more intimate review of Omar's life as it includes transcripts of interviews with Omar himself, family members and also former teammates such as Luis Giraldo Casanova, Juan Castro, Yobal Dueñas and others and also longtime manager Jorge Fuentes.