by Abel Gonzalez Alayon | Cuban News Agency
Forty US senior softball players are currently in Havana playing a series of baseball games against their Cuban counterparts for a second time in two years.
“The first trip was very exciting. Cuba is a mystery for Americans” said centerfielder Mike Frank minutes before the fifth game between one Cuban Veteranos team and the Eastern Massachusetts Senior Softball (EMASS) C squad.
“This time we came to meet old friends. Cubans are great hosts and we really enjoy being here” he adds while stretching. Frank is 62 and is the leader of this C team, made up of 15 players 65 and older. They are wearing blue uniforms displaying the EMASS logo on top of a baseball where it reads Cuba.
“It is a shame we have to request a travel license from the US Treasury Department”. Most of the American team says they would love to come to Cuba with their families, but getting a license is hard.
“Stu (Gray) handled the OFAC licensing process for the team’s journey.
Meanwhile a retired 82 year old Cuban pitcher Enrique Piedra says “I am ready to win this time. Last year I pitched three games and won them all, but this Monday I was too wild and lost”.
“We are just people. We should be able, Cubans and Americans alike, to share more events like this. This is not about politics. Our peoples can be friends” says Carlos Alfonso, a mechanical engineer. “They are real nice and this way we can get to know how Americans really are.”
The umpire calls both teams together where they hug and share jokes in broken Spanglish. As the game begins they forget all about politics and age. Softball is all that matters now…and friendship.
After returning to the United States in 2009, Stu Gray wrote: “Our EMASS athletes who participated in the trip did so because of their love of the game as well the lure and panache of Cuba. We were profoundly rewarded with one-of-a-kind memories for our boldness and spirit of adventure.”