Life in Saskatchewan
Came to Canada in 1953 to play baseball
Matanzas Cuba on September 30, 1929 Passed away in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan on March 6, 2006
Sport, Health & Social Services
Roberto grew up on the baseball-mad island of Cuba where Apelota, as baseball was called, was a major part of the Cuban psyche. Baseball may be America’s pastime, simply an afterthought in Canada (well behind hockey) but in Cuba, baseball is almost a religion, as the country proudly proclaims it as a national sport. Like most Cuban youngsters from his generation, he learned to play the game with passion and developed into a better-than-average amateur player in and around the Havana area. In those pre-revolution days, he could normally be found on a dusty diamond plying his skills while intermittently trying to earn enough to help his parents avoid the squalor that life had presented them with.
Roberto is quoted in an interview as playing against Fidel Castro an amateur 17 years old, who used to play against the University of Havana where Castro was a pitcher.
During the early spring of 1953, Roberto was contacted by the Saskatoon Gems of the semi-pro Saskatchewan Baseball League and offered a tryout with that club for the upcoming season.
Zayas’ stay in Saskatoon was brief and he wound up playing the bulk of the 1953 campaign with the Moose Jaw Maples, also a member of the Saskatchewan League.
Chronology of playing years in Saskatchewan
1953 – Saskatoon Gems/Moose Jaw Maples (Saskatchewan League- semi pro)
1954 – Lloydminster Meridians (Saskatchewan League – semi pro)
1955 – Lloydminster Meridians (Western Canada Baseball League – semi pro)
1956 – Lloydminster Meridians (Western Canada Baseball League – semi pro)
1957 – Lloydminster Meridians (Western Canada Baseball League – semi pro)
1958 – North Battleford-Lloydminster Combines/ Moose Jaw Mallards
1959 – Moose Jaw Mallards (Southern Saskatchewan League – amateur)
1960 to 1963 – player/manager for the Training School (Valley View Centre
1964 – Moose Jaw Regals (Southern Saskatchewan League – amateur)
1965 and 1966 – Moose Jaw Regals (Southern Saskatchewan League)
1967 – Field manager of the Moose Jaw Regals (Southern Saskatchewan League)
Following his playing days, Roberto turned his talents to coaching in the Moose Jaw minor baseball program. He would often be called in as a guest coach to teach fundamentals to a large group of aspiring players.
Away from the diamond, Roberto was known as a great humanitarian. For several years, he worked with intellectually challenged individuals at the Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw. Known as a people person, he had a penchant for voluntarily counseling others who needed guidance. Roberta was the father of three daughters.
In 2010, Roberto Zayas was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.
Sources: Jay-Dell Mah, Optimist News
Pictures: Courtesy of daughter, Christie Zayas