Editor’s note: Reynaldo Cruz has been staying in West Hartford this summer through an arrangement sponsored by Teen Cultures Connect. He is a resident of Holguin, Cuba, where he is the editor of the digital news site Revista Universo Béisbol, and has been writing about his experiences.
By Reynaldo Cruz, [email protected]
They flew to Cuba with a dream in April 2016, uncertain of what lay ahead. They came back with a whole new experience and many Cuban friends.
A team of Cuban kids came to the USA that July and the exchange continued with a return trip to the Caribbean island in 2017.
The Hartford Yard Goats, AA Affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, decided not to let the opportunity go by, and celebrated the kids that broke long-standing barriers as part of a Teen Cultures Connect project.
During April 2016, these young ambassadors from West Hartford, CT, experienced the real Cuba, and got to some of the country’s remote communities, away from the comfort of the hotels and the glamour of the beautiful Cuban beaches, to play baseball with local kids. In the process, they gave away school supplies and baseball gear as a way of thanking their hosts. In order to return the hospitality, 12 Cuban kids traveled to West Hartford, CT, in July 2016, with a program that included a visit to a game in Fenway Park, a guided visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and one of their five games played on the sacred grounds of Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.
With such an amazing experience, another contingent from West Hartford was prompted to visit Holguín, Cuba once more in April 2017. It was indeed an outstanding moment for the youths who managed to meet Cuban people first-hand and interact with the communities surrounding the resort where they were staying. They were all pioneers, using their countries’ shared interest of baseball to forge lifetime relationships.
Yard Goats night, Aug. 10, 2017, was exciting, as some of the kids that played in Cuban soil during the two trips took the field prior to the game as Teen Cultures Connect’s video on Cuba was played in the jumbotron at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. To view that video on YouTube, click here.
On “princesses and pirates” night, the Yard Goats came from behind and had a spectacular victory over the Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees) in a game that featured Trenton starter Domingo Acevedo hitting 103 mph on the radar and retiring 10 straight before Josh Fuentes hit a solo shot that broke the magic. Trailing by two runs in the eighth inning, and with the bullpen in charge for both teams, Fuentes hit his second blast of the night, this one a three-run shot, to cement the comeback.
At the conclusion of the game, David “The Bullet” Smith was shot out of a cannon from the outfield at Dunkin’ Donuts park, landing safely on a net near home plate.
Teen Cultures Connect’s goal is to connect kids from different cultures and their favorite moments from the exchange were just that. These young ambassadors, decades after the Revolution, the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, have thawed some ice between nations previously divided: they have built lifelong relationships.