From Cuba to DC, baseball love story a big hit

Fernando Suarez of the Durham Lords swinging in a game versus George Brown College.

Fernando Suarez’s love of baseball has seen him play on diamonds in Cuba and in Canada, including right here at Durham College.

Suarez is a 25-year-old Cuban native and DC student, who led the Lords to a National College Baseball Championship in October.

Listed by the Lords as a catcher-first baseman-designated hitter, Suarez hit .500 in the championship and scored the winning run as Durham beat Thompson River 2-1 in the final in an extra inning.

“It feels good, it kind of reminds you that all the work you have put in is worthy, but on the other hand don’t get attached to it,” is how he describes his performance this season.

Suarez moved to Whitby in February, 2018 with his wife, a Cuban-Canadian who was already living in Canada. He got a job coaching the Ontario Cardinals and was working alongside Sam Dempster, the longtime coach of the Lords. Dempster then recruited Suarez to join the Lords.

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Fernando Suarez working in the FLEX gym on campus. Photo credit: William Black

The first part of the season, Durham didn’t play like a championship team.

The Lords started with only two wins in their first eight games.

At that point, Suarez says a meeting was held and he told his teammates the Lords were better than their record indicated.

“We were two and six and I told them, ‘guys we are a good team, I don’t see why we cannot win’,” he says.

Following that meeting, the Lords embarked on an 11-game win streak. Suarez was not surprised.

“I was expecting this to happen, it’s not like that came out of the blue. I knew that was the team we were, not two and six,” he says.

Suarez has just started his time at Durham – but for Dempster it was a storybook ending to his career.

This was the final year Dempster coached at Durham, after leading the program since its inaugural season in 1992.

“I learned a lot from him,” says Suarez. “I tried to pick his brain as much as I could because I knew this was going to be his last year.”

Suarez still recalls his first exposure to the game of baseball.

“I remember since I was three years old I would watch baseball on TV and I was so amazed.”

He says the moment life changed for him was in Grade 2 and his teacher asked if anyone in the class wanted to be on his town’s baseball team in Cuba. He enthusiastically volunteered himself. This was the start of Suarez’s baseball career.

In addition to being a student in the Fitness and Health Promotion program, Suarez is working at The FLEX, the gym on campus.

Suarez and his wife are also expecting a baby in January. Suarez has offers for other baseball organizations like the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL), which has teams throughout southern Ontario.

But for now, he’s unsure of his baseball future.

“Honestly I don’t know what’s going to happen” says Suarez. “I don’t know if I’m going to play IBL, because of the baby. All the teams are far away and that doesn’t help.”