Carlos Alberto Tabares Padilla, a player known for his dynamism and dedication. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Therewas no historic significance linked to the number 56 in Cuban baseball series until Carlos Alberto Tabares Padilla appeared. For 25 years he wore the blue-flannel Industriales jersey with the number 56 on the back, and now, having retired, is looking to continue his legacy from the bleachers.
“When I was dropped from the youth pre-selection team in the late 1980s, I didn’t want to have anything to do with baseball; at least that’s what I told my folks. But they’d given me a jersey with the number 56 on the back and a few days later, after much thought and reflection, I sat down again with my family and promised them that with this number, I would be great,” recalls Tabares one of the most charismatic and outstanding players our National Series has seen in the last 20 years.
As a center fielder he made headlines for his wide range, outstanding movement across the field, precise positioning, and quick reactions, qualities which enabled him to catch any ball that entered the outfield.
His long-range fielding, dastardly sprints to anywhere on the field and impossible catches are treasured memories for Cuban baseball fans.
If you ask him about the secret to remaining among the elite for so long, Tabares will modestly tell you that it’s all about hard work and training. However, despite his consistency - vital in high-performance sports - Tabares has always shown a natural talent for the game, winning the affection of the heard-to-please Industriales fans.
“It’s hard to make a name for yourself on Industriales, with so many other star players you have to be working at 100% all the time, and if you let up you could see yourself left out of the line-up. I debuted in 1992 alongside experienced players, but with a lot of dedication, playing to my absolute maximum, so much so that I injured myself countless times, hitting the fence or twisting my ankle in slides, I found my spot,” explains the number 56.
Tabares adapted quickly to the pressure of playing for the capital’s team and combined his magic defense with effective batting. “I always felt comfortable with players on base, I liked being the center of attention and batting in important runs, in important games. I drew on the example of my ultimate player Javier Méndez, and the aggressiveness of Víctor Mesa.”
Thanks to his skill and effectiveness, Tabares played a decisive role in the five titles he won as a member of Industriales’ Lions. “I was champion with Pedro Medina in 1996, and then three times with Rey Vicente Anglada, and in the 49th Series with Germán Mesa. Of all of these, the most special for me is the one when we set a record of 66 wins, in 2003, because my father had died only months before, on March 27. I hit a home-run in the last game of the final which I dedicated to him, lifting my hands to the sky for the first time. This win was special for the whole team as everyone shared my pain,” recalled Tabares, also renowned for his international achievements.
“I was young when I first debuted for Cuba, then at 22, I went to play in Holland. However, my first major experiences were in the Baseball World Cup in Italy and the Central American Games in Maracaibo in 1998; where I hit an average of .370 between both. I didn’t play for a national team again until 2003, something which no one has been able to explain to me, even today.
“I continued playing baseball and returned in the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo and the World Cup in Havana. Then came the Olympics in Athens and the 2006 World Classic, both fantastic experiences, in regards to the performances, teammates, and results. It was an indescribable feeling, and even more so given the fact that I had been displaced and managed to once again win a spot on the team thanks to my efforts,” he notes.
After such a long time at the top, it might seem hard to recognize the right moment to hang up your spikes, but Tabares had been thinking about his retirement for a while. “At 40 I realized that the 56th Series would be my last, given what the number means to me. I told Javier Méndez that I wanted to retire the same way I started, playing center field, not left field or any other position, something which sometimes happens to the longest active players. The most important thing for me was to end on a positive note, and although we didn’t qualify, from a personal point of view, I feel that it was a good farewell.
“Now that I’m retired, I think that I can do pretty much anything in baseball. I’m currently learning with Víctor Mesa and would like to work with kids, because the base is very important for the future of Cuban baseball. I would also like to be a manager, but only once I’ve acquired enough knowledge, I’m in no rush.”