Greg Mercer, Record staff
KITCHENER — The Kitchener Panthers’ search for a shortstop this season has taken them from New Hamburg to Old Havana.
The local Intercounty Baseball League team says it will be using one of its four import roster spots to fill a gap in the infield with the departure of veteran Mike Glinka.
Glinka, 28, retired in the off-season after almost a decade with the Panthers. The New Hamburg-raised ballplayer, who hit .295 last year, left the team to focus on his kinesiology PhD.
This winter, the Panthers looked at local options to replace Glinka, including trying to sign Aaron Hornostaj, a former San Francisco Giants prospect. Hornostaj, a Woodstock native who reached as high as Triple-A, is living in Waterloo after a 20-year career that stretched across the minors, Australia and Europe.
The team then broadened its search to Cuba, where the Panthers are in talks to sign four Cuban players for the 2017 season. They want one of those players to be their everyday shortstop.
The deal is in the final stages, but names can’t be released until Cuba’s baseball officials sign off on the agreement.
“We initially looked at three pitchers and a catcher, but when Glinka decided to retire, we knew we needed a shortstop,” said Mike Boehmer, the Panthers director who is brokering the deal.
“It’ll be great when we can finally make an announcement.”
The Panthers were also targeting the same three Cubans — catcher Frank Morejon and pitchers Noelvis Entenza and Ian Rendon — who played in Kitchener last season under a historic deal with Cuba’s national baseball federation.
Morejon and Entenza were part of the Cuban team that lost in the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic in March. Morejon hit .200 over four games in the tournament, while Entenza had a 3.38 ERA while giving up four walks and five hits in two starts.
Morejon, Entenza and Rendon are all teammates on the Havana Industriales, their Cuban team that begins its regular season in the fall.
The Panthers season starts May 7 in Toronto. Their home opener is May 14 against defending champions Barrie Baycats, who swept the Panthers in the semifinals last year.