A team of collegiate baseball stars are currently representing the United States in a 5-game series in Havana, Cuba after a 16-year hiatus. The match-up between our college hot shots and the veteran Cuban national squad is a revival of a series between two baseball-lovin countries that had been suspended indefinitely.
Players and fans stood together in Cuba’s storied Latin American Stadium on Thursday night as both the Cuban and U.S. national anthems played over loudspeakers — I’m sure the U.S. national anthem is not frequently played in the communist country.
The last time Cuba and the U.S. played a series like this outside of a world tournament was in 1996. Because of the political situation between these two countries, this quick weekend series took years of relationship building to get the ball rolling again.
The U.S. sent 22 players and 5 managers to the Caribbean for a weekend to play ball. The series is considered a warm-up for the upcoming Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands. Jonny Field of the University of Arizona told the AP:
“This is awesome. I’ve never been out of the country before, so this is my first time,” said USA outfielder Johnny Field, a 20-year-old sophomore who won a College World Series title less than two weeks ago with the University of Arizona. “We’ve heard all the hype about how great the stadium is, and Cuba is at baseball, and it’s already shown since we got here. … We’re fired up to be here.”
The ultimate plan is for the Cuban national team to pay a reciprocal visit next summer. Victor Mesa, former star outfielder and current manager of the Cuban national team, explained how important it will be to maintain this match-up between the two countries. He told the AP:
“In the past, the big stars from the United States played against us. Barry Bonds. Mark McGwire. Frank Thomas,” Mesa said. “We are a measuring stick for the major leagues. We are an elite team with pitchers who could pitch at any level, so if one of these boys stands out against us, he has the talent to play in the majors.”
Baseball is considered the “American Pastime” but Cubans are equally as obsessed with the sport. Hopefully the borders will be opened someday soon and U.S. citizens could even go and watch the series!