Pitching Cuba

Daniel F. Solomon

Book Cover

GENRE

DRAMA HISTORICAL FICTION SUSPENSE / THRILLER

    Core Theme

    Coming of age as an American kid during the Cuban Revolution Coming of age as an American kid during the Cuban Revolution

    TIME PERIOD

    1957-1962

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    Our Man in Havana; The Natural; Bingo Long and His Traveling All Stars; The Great American Novel; For Whom the Bell Tolls

    CHARACTER LIST

    • RANDY: 17-22. Protagonist. Trusting, loyal and determined, but immature and naive.

    • TERESA: 18-22. Randy’s first girlfriend. Cuban femme fatale, shady lady, spy.

    • HANK: 50S: Randy’s uncle. Con man using Randy for his own ends.

    • DE LA CRUZ: 17-20. Heroic. Randy’s teammate and perhaps the greatest baseball prospect of all time; cult leader who could be an alternative to Fidel Castro.

    • REMIGIO: 30-50S. Randy’s Cuban coach who transforms Randy into a pitcher.

    • SUSAN: 18-22. Randy’s American femme fatale, who is monitoring his Cuban escapades. Spy.

    Logline

    LOGLINE: Randy Wolfe, age 17, minor league baseball player, son of preacher, incoming freshman at a fundamentalist college, is ostensibly sent to Cuba to play winter ball in 1957. However, he is unaware that he was actually recruited into a US government spy operation (psy ops).

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34

    Target Gender: Universal,Male Leaning

    Setting

    Cuba, Ohio.

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: No

    Starting Description

    Cuba, 1959. RANDY and Don Pedro, graying Cuban revolutionary officer, cower in a dark and dank prison while prisoners are executed by firing squad. Fearing that he will be liquidated as a CIA spy, Randy wants to speak to the Comandante. He is on a mission that could save Cuban American relations.

    Ending Description

    Randy is waiting to find out whether he is the heir to his uncle's estate. His uncle was a flim flam man who disappeared after fleecing investors who include the Mafia. Also present is Randy;s former love interest, who has betrayed and humiliated him, with a daughter. Is the child his?

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    Information not completed

    Mature Audience Themes

    Language/Profanity

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Meaningful Message,Philosophical Questions,Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Internal Journey/Rebirth,Quest,Tragedy,Voyage and Return

    Main Character Details

    Name: Randy (El Lobo) Wolfe

    Age: 17-21

    Gender: Male

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Clumsy,Engaging,Funny,Romantic,Heroic,Religious,Patriotic,Obedient,Naive,Underdog

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Hank

    Age: 50

    Gender: Male

    Role: Tempter

    Key Traits: Aspiring,Masculine,Aggressive,Villainous,Narcisstic,Charming,Confident,Criminal,Engaging,Outspoken,Sarcastic,Secretive,Manipulative,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Teresa

    Age: 18-22

    Gender: Female

    Role: tempter

    Key Traits: Aspiring,Adventurous,Charming,Sexy,Patriotic,Decisive,Blunt,Heartthrob,Visionary,Manipulative,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: De La Cruz

    Age: 18-22

    Gender: Male

    Role: protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Masculine,Aggressive,Patriotic,Religious,Blunt,Decisive,Desperate,Selfless,Outspoken,Skillful,Funny,Visionary,Empathetic,Engaging,Faithful,Gracious,Honorable,Leader,Strong Moral Code

    Development Pitch

    1957. In Cuba, Castro is in the mountains leading a revolt. De La Cruz is potentially the greatest baseball prospect of all time, and he played rookie ball with Randy, a lovable hick with little ability as a player, who is his only friend in the States. Randy's uncle Hank convinces him to go to Cuba, ostensibly to play winter baseball, but to covertly try to sign De La Cruz to a contract, in reality as a spy for the US government. While there, Randy yields to many temptations. De La Cruz becomes a religious and militia leader. War rages, Randy is tempted, compromised, humiliated, loses his virginity, is captured, tortured, drugged, debriefed and fails in his mission. However, he receives a second chance and sets out again in a quest.

    Genre

    SUSPENSE, DRAMA, POLITICS

    Brief

    As an incoming college freshman, a 17-year-old boy is given the chance to play minor league baseball in Cuba, encouraged by his uncle who is less caring than he seems. An unwitting spy for the US government, the young man comes of age in a raucous political climate that he doesn’t fully understand, experiencing love, loss, and everything in between while in the midst of the country’s upheaval.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    For the most part, yes, the profile accurately reflects the book. Choosing fewer genres so it’s more streamlined would be good, though. The profile could also use a proofing pass, as there are some grammatical mistakes and typos.

    Draw of Story

    One of the very first scenes is Randy’s flight down to Cuba when he meets Susan, and it’s the perfect hook into his story. He’s naive and so sheltered, and his obsession with pretty women, and complete misunderstanding of how to woo them, is charming. He experiences a sampling of overindulgent Cuban culture on the plane, and then he’s pushed into the deep end in Havana. It’s total culture shock for a conservative boy from small town Kentucky. His rampant curiosity about Cuba and its people, and his refusal to judge them morally despite his personal religious beliefs, is such a draw because it solidifies him as an empathetic (and fun) character.

    Possible Drawbacks

    Though Randy is lovable and a great entry point for the audience into this story, as we can learn everything alongside him, he’s sometimes too naive. It works in the very beginning, particularly because of his age, but it sometimes seems absurd he’s not more suspicious of Hank or Teresa. Given that love could blind him to their actions, then maybe he could be more hesitant in regards to Hank’s associates? Even small moments of doubt would go a long way. All he wants to do is play baseball and spread Christianity, and he isn’t allowed to do either. Perhaps if he were to feel more frustration, then his suspicion could naturally arise through that. Randy shouldn’t come across too simple or easily fooled, after all, as that erodes his likability.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The setting in 1950s Cuba is so original, and there isn’t a lot of media that focuses on that location much less in that time. The Cuban Revolution is a fascinating, largely untouched part of history (at least for American audiences), and this is also a unique way into the story. The audience has the benefit of hindsight, and watching Randy get accidentally more and more wound up in Cuban politics is thrilling. It’s easy to see a trailer for this focused around the beautiful locations and mounting unease in the country.

    Fanbase Potential

    The fact that it’s a unique setting in both place and time could engage an audience, but it would likely not be a blockbuster type of film due to the story and somewhat niche premise. It would have a better chance at a larger fanbase as a show or limited series.

    Awards Potential

    This story could definitely have awards potential thanks to its thematics and the fact that it’s based on some true events with famous historical characters.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, NARCOS, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, CHE

    What’s New About the Story

    As mentioned, the setting makes this incredibly unique, and all the details of 1957 Havana and Santa Clara bring the world to life. Anything that focuses on the specific locations — hotels, churches, casinos, stadiums, and the like — help breathe life into the story. Randy learning more about the local religion is also great, as Santeria is fascinating, and his slow acknowledgement that it’s not evil shows a lot of character growth. Anything that focuses on aspects unique to Cuba and its people are sure to push the originality of the story.

    Lead Characters

    Randy is such a likable protagonist. He’s kind and compassionate, even if he’s not too bright. He doesn’t come off like a rube, though, one of his greatest fears. Instead he’s blinded by his trust in other people. Even after he’s continuously lied to, manipulated, led astray, and, frankly, screwed over, he still believes in people’s ability to do the right thing. He’s shocked that Teresa would vote for De La Cruz to be executed, and his horror reflects the audience’s. He’s a genuinely good person, and that fact is always clear on the page.

    Uniqueness of Story

    The setting on the cusp of the Cuban Revolution makes this a rare gem. The author is careful to avoid any sort of white savior narrative, too, as Randy is always respectful of the Cubans he interacts with. More to the point, he doesn’t save anyone, at the end of the day, despite his best efforts. He knows he’s only telling his version of the story, and he knows it’s hampered by his outsider identity. Randy grows up in Cuba, and that kind of film always has an audience. The uniqueness of the setting, and Randy’s profession as minor leaguer, make this innovative.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Studio, TV Series - Limited Run / Mini-Series

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    It’s a truly unique story, and Randy’s a protagonist anyone could fall in love with. He consistently tries his best, which is heartening in a world of antiheroes. So much is learned through his eyes, and though he’s naive, his view is not too rose-tinted. He still sees the unjustness on the island, and the people he throws his true trust behind — Teresa and De La Cruz — embody their own strong moral convictions. He knows there are shades of gray, and it allows a story to unfurl that shows there’s no clear cut right and wrong in the Revolution. This is an original way to introduce the Cuban Revolution to an American audience, and it’s a clever way to slip complicated politics into an entertaining story.

    Brief

    An incoming college freshman is given the chance to play minor league baseball in Cuba, encouraged by his insidious uncle. He comes to the country in 1957, unaware that revolution is brewing and everyone plans to use him for their own ends.

    What We Liked

    - This is a truly unique story, and Randy’s a protagonist anyone could fall in love with. He consistently tries his best, which is heartening in a world of antiheroes. So much is learned through his eyes, and though he’s naive, his view is not too rose-tinted. This is an original way to introduce the Cuban Revolution to an American audience, and it’s a clever way to slip complicated politics into an entertaining story. The audience has the benefit of hindsight, and watching Randy get accidentally more and more wound up in Cuban politics is thrilling. It’s easy to see a trailer for this focused around the beautiful locations and mounting unease in the country.
    - Film: This story as a film would slot right into the great tradition of coming of age media. Randy’s experience in Cuba could be made to fit in a two hour time frame, as the narrative of the book suits itself well to a second act turning point, when Randy suddenly finds himself in the middle of a revolution that he thought was already finished. Historical fiction tends to do well at the box office and in awards season, and this is a vehicle for so much great talent, from the protagonist to the diverse Cuban characters to Ernest Hemingway himself.
    - TV: Pitching Cuba is made to be a limited series. There’s no shortage of characters, settings, and drama to fill out the episodes. A series would allow the story to unroll at a slower pace, organically as Randy experiences it. Tension mounts as he begins to realize something is wrong in the novel, and that would only heighten episode to episode. It would also be easy to showcase supporting characters and their individual stories as subplots, and the spying elements can even be delved into more deeply. The world of 1957 Havana would come alive on the small screen, and Randy is our entry point into the city.
    - Key points: Location; Time period; Likable protagonist; Historical characters; Coming of age theme

    Synopsis

    RANDY, a freshman at a bible college, is sent by his uncle HANK to Cuba to be in the minor leagues. The White Sox are sending him to play as part of the Winter League, and they’ll sign a contract with him afterward. The college agrees to give him credit for the rest of the semester, as Hank’s worked it all out with the president. Randy will have to write reports of what he experiences there, and he’ll be on an official mission for the Presbyterian Church to convert Cubans. On the flight, Randy unknowingly has his first alcoholic drink and meets SUSAN, a psychology major who’s taking a semester off to study the Cuban people. He’s attracted to her, but she doesn’t return his feelings. In Havana, Randy meets GUS, who knows Hank from their time overseas. Gus takes care of Randy in Havana, getting him into a better hotel and even offering to have someone type up his ongoing report about Cuba for the college. Hank is a lawyer and a businessman, and he has dealings with local casino owners and even US gangsters, though Randy doesn’t believe those rumors. MARTIN runs the local Presbyterian church in Havana, and Randy tries to help spread the Good News with him. REMIGIO is Hank’s man on the ground in Havana, and he mentors Randy in how to be a better hitter and pitcher.

    Cuba has gone through an upheaval the last few years, and public opinion is torn on PRESIDENT BATISTA. Randy meets the beautiful TERESA, a tour guide who has no fondness for Batista and tries to open Randy’s eyes to his corruption. The two start dating, and Randy tries to balance seeing her with baseball and Hank’s expectations. Hank is interested in one of Randy’s former team members, DE LA CRUZ. Randy swears that De La Cruz is one of the best players in the world, and he even wears a necklace De La Cruz gave him before leaving America. De La Cruz was too young to sign a contract when he played with Randy and can void any prior agreements. As De La Cruz is a free agent, Hank wants to become a sports agent and sign him before anyone else can, and then plans to start his own team. He has interested investors, and this means Randy could for sure play on the team — as he’s not getting any time on the field. Hank wants to start two teams, and the expansion means Randy would go to Santa Clara to play. This is a plan that no one else seems to know about, but Santa Clara is Teresa’s hometown.

    Most of the team is made up of Cubans from Santa Clara, and Randy’s pitching and hitting is still iffy at best, though he is learning and does get to play some. He realizes that Susan knows Hank, and the two seem close. He also realizes that some of Hank’s people know President Batista. FIDEL CASTRO, who was locked up as a political prisoner for his rebellion against the right-wing government before being pardoned, allegedly plans to overthrow Batista. With his brother RAUL and CHE GUEVARA, he’s formed the 26th of July Movement, a revolutionary group. Batista and the papers say there is no trouble and the fighting in Cuba is finished, but Teresa tells him how the school in Havana has been closed since students tried to attack Batista and his soldiers. Randy hears there are bombings and fighting back, but it’s all downplayed by everyone he asks. He learns that there’s no actual plan to expand the Cuban league, and that he never had a contract with the Sox. Hank lied to get him to Cuba.

    More and more people ask if he knows where De La Cruz is, but he has no idea until he is secreted into the mountains, near where the 26th of July rebels are. De La Cruz is a pacifist, though, and he’s seen as the protector of indigenous Cubans and Afrocubans, guarding their interests against Spanish colonial and American influence. Desperate for love, two competing femme fatales seduce, deceive and humiliate him. They involve him in espionage, sabotage and terrorism. Randy has to be remade as a ballplayer, and as “El Lobo” is transformed, and pitches his team of underdogs to beat a superior team loaded with his enemies. However, to do so, he needed to cheat. When he returns to Havana, Randy learns there have been a slew of bombings, and he’s arrested by Cuban special agents. They interrogate him, and instead of torture they use a pretty woman to seduce him into answering everything. He slowly learns that Martin, Martin’s church, and Teresa are both a part of the 26th of July Movement, and that he has unsuspectingly been carrying packages that could have been bombs for them. Gus is furious that he talked and was so honest. The violence is escalating, and Hank has gone missing. After he is debriefed by Susan and Gus, Randy is sent back to his American college.

    Randy has been humiliated. Publicity of his misadventures ruined his father’s career. The school won’t take him back.

    Two years later, Susan finds him. She apologizes for using him for information, and for never telling him the truth — that they were both spying for the US government. She and Gus both tell him that Hank screwed over a lot of important people and owed a lot of money. At the depth of his failure, Randy receives a second chance and is sent to Cuba to fulfill his mission -- in reality to set up a clandestine underground network of spies. He speaks with De La Cruz, who is incensed that Castro’s new government still isn’t granting rights to mulattos, natives, and Afrocubans. Teresa, meanwhile, is now a party official, and Randy is dismayed she was secretly a communist all along. She has no regret for using Randy, and she’s cruel to him. No one has seen Hank since just before Thanksgiving in 1957, but no one Randy talks to has any leads. De La Cruz is arrested as a threat to Castro’s power. De La Cruz, the heroic profane potential savior of Cuba, now a comandante and a cult figure, “El Orisha,” the god of Cuban baseball, is tried by a military tribunal for treason, found guilty and sentenced to be executed. Randy was called as a witness and under cross examination substantiated some of the claims against De La Cruz. Teresa was a member of the tribunal that sentenced De La Cruz to death. To Randy the trial was unjust and he needs to vindicate De L Cruz. Only Randy can save him. He rushes to Havana to appeal. In a Havana prison, Randy is taken to the comandante – who turn out to be Che Guevara. Randy argues on De La Cruz’ behalf…but Randy never learns what happens to his friend. He repeatedly tries to get answers from every US agency with Cuban ties. Hank is finally declared dead in 1961, after Randy graduates from college. He and Susan are Hank’s beneficiaries, and Susan has a daughter who may be Hank’s but may also be Randy’s.

    About The Author

    Author of Breaking Up with Cuba (McFarland, 2010) and Miami '90: 2Paths2 Murder.