If there is one sport that has introduced the most phrases to the Cuban lexicon, it’s baseball. Known as la pelota–the ball–baseball in Cuba is more than just a pastime, it’s part of our national identity–even more than sugarcane. We hear you have it the same way in English, whether you’re using a ballpark figure, someone threw you a curve ball, or you just hit a homerun. But here in Cuba, we think we take it to another level. To celebrate the launch of our new Habana Pelotera baseball shirt, here are ten of the most fun Cuban baseball phrases:
Eres cuarto bate: “You’re fourth at bat” . In Cuba, people who are "fourth at bat" don’t stop eating, have an appetite that is difficult to control and will eat anywhere, whether its a gourmet restaurant or the food cart on the corner. Some people light take that as an offense, but in Cuba it’s not anything to worry about.
Se fue del parque: “He left the park” . This expression always indicates a loss. It is almost always used when someone dies, or something goes astray.
Metió pa’ 500: “He reached 500” . We hear you have a similar expression in English: “batting 1000.” Though here we’re a little more realistic, and set the bar at 500. We use this when a person excels at something. It almost always has a positive tone, although it can be used negatively. For example, when someone makes a big claim that you know isn’t true, you could say "Metió pa 500".
Me tienen en tres y dos: “They have me at three and two”'. In baseball, 3-and-2 means the batter has three balls and two strikes–one away from a strikeout, but also one away from walking to first. So for us, being at three and two is to be in trouble, in a situation where you have to make an immediate decision. As we say in Spanish la espada y la pared–between the sword and the wall.
Tú bateas todo lo que te pichean: “You hit everything that’s thrown at you” . It's used to indicate agility. A person who is looking for quick solutions to problems and easily gets out of any situation.
Estás poncha’o: “You struck out” . This one is almost always associated with exams, although it can also be used in other contexts. If you fail an exam, te ponchaste or estás ponchao–you struck out.
Partió el bate: “You broke the bat” . Said of someone who did something unheard of. It can express something extraordinary and positive, but almost always has a negative connotation. It’s especially used when someone does something silly, that everyone knows is wrong.
Te cogieron robando base: “The caught you stealing a base” . We use this one when someone is caught in a serious lie. In Cuba, it mainly refers to a couple's infidelities.
Al estrai (strike): “To the strike” . We have a lot of words like this in Spanish, particularly relating to baseball. Loanwords that are spelled differently but still sound a lot like the English counterparts they’re borrowing from. Spanish words Estrai for strike, pícher for pitcher and jonrón for homerun. Al estrai or “to the strike” means without detours, without repeating yourself, without embellishments, straight to the point. The opposite of what we just did in this explanation.
No le hizo swing: “They didn’t give it a swing". It means they’re not taking something seriously, from a meal to a relationship. If you're at a party and the person you're talking to doesn’t remember your name, or dance with you, or want to give you their phone number, they didn’t give you a swing. This phrase is also used in positive: le hizo swing. But only if you are lucky.
These ten phrase are a good start if you want to understand the language of the barrios in Cuba. Hazle swing so that you batees todo lo que te picheen and nobody puts you en tres y dos. We’re sure that if you remember them all, they’ll say you’re metiste pa’ 500!!
Which ones did we miss? Which baseball phrases do you have in English? If you’ve heard any, let us know!