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Posted July 23, 2003 by publisher in Cuban Sports

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By DEREK REDD | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Naples News

So the baseball games Clayton Pisani will be playing in August don’t count toward any record or anything. That doesn’t bother him a bit.
For the incoming junior at Barron Collier High School, the opportunity he’ll get trumps all wins or losses.

Pisani has been selected to join prep baseball players from across the country to travel to Cuba with USA-Cuba Sports Experiences. The organization, in conjunction with the World Amateur Athletic Congress based in California, sends youth athletic teams to compete against Cuba’s best players.

The baseball team’s job will be to warm up the Cuban Junior Olympic team for its games with the U.S. Junior Olympic team. Pisani and his teammates fly into Cuba Aug. 7 and expect to play seven games.

Pisani, an outfielder who will likely pitch and play shortstop for the Cougars next season, got the nod from a coach he once played for at a baseball showcase. When he found out last week that he was chosen, he says he couldn’t believe his good fortune. He also couldn’t wait to step on the diamond with some great athletes.

Cuba takes baseball very seriously.

According to the USA-Cuba Sports Experiences web site, Cuban children are selected at 10 years old and sent to special academies, where they get three to four hours a day of special training.

“It’s a huge honor,” he says.

“Those guys base their lives around baseball. I know half those guys could be in major- league baseball or wherever they want in a couple of years.

“At first, I was a little nervous,” he added. “I’ll be playing with some awesome kids.”

He’s just as nervous to meet his own teammates. Top players from as far away as Oregon and Texas will make up the team.

Baseball won’t be the only item on their itinerary. After all, the kids are students, aren’t they?

The team plans to visit sites like Ernest Hemingway’s estate at Varadero Beach, Morro Fort and the Castle Corona Cigar Factory and the Museum of the Revolution.

Pisani says those experiences will be just as important as any game he plays.

“I feel like I’m going to learn so much just from being there,” he says. “I’ll see how lucky I am to have the things I have.”

While the games are exhibitions, it doesn’t mean Pisani’s competitive juices will dry up. He’d like to experience Cuban culture and he’d like to experience a few wins on top of that.

“Of course, I want to win really bad,” he says. “But I’m not going to get upset if we don’t.

Still, I don’t want to get shut out five games in a row.”

Wins and losses will be on his mind, but they won’t be the only things. He hopes to use this to grow as both a person and a baseball player.

“Opportunities like this don’t come around too often,” he says.

Which is why he’s planning to make the most of this one.

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