Day 4: History, Baseball Stars, and Cannons

NOTE: This post has been updated to include the photos I was unable to post originally.
We started off the day heading to the Jose Marti Center to partake in a lecture about the history of Cuban baseball. Our teacher was a well-known broadcast journalist, who reports on baseball games for the national sports channel. He covered the game between the Rays and the National team, and was able to go to Rogers Centre in Toronto for a game. We learned about each of the 16 teams in the Cuban national league, and each of their mascots. To be able to enter the country as Americans, we have academic visas. The lectures we attend at the ceremony are intended to fulfill this requirement.
We boarded the bus ahead of schedule (rare in Cuba), and were able to fit in an extra stop–Lennon Park. This tree lined square is centered around a metal statue of John Lennon sitting on a park bench and wearing a real pair of glasses. There is a person who works there, observing the statue, and making sure nobody takes the glasses. Right as we arrived, a huge crowd of tourists arrived hailing from European countries such as Germany.
The park was only a quick stop before our main destination–Playa stadium, where we would play our third baseball game. I was able to get some fantastic photos and video clips, as the baseball commissioner brought me onto a nearby rooftop to take photos and film (see pictures below for the view). The game was much better, the team has greatly improved. Ollie Pudvar lead the Vermont team’s lineup, slugging an inside the park home run. He started on the mound for the Americans, who held the Cubans to no runs for the first few innings. Besides one rough inning (when Vermont gave up nine runs), it was a close, competitive, and well-played ballgame. I believe the final score was 9-3. While the two teams may have been competitors during the two hour ballgame, at the end they were one. The players of both teams gathered around, mixed up together, holding the flags of both our countries. Americans holding the Cuban flag, and Cubans holding the American flag. It was truly symbolic of the lasting friendship that has been formed over the course of these few days.
During the game, the ballfield received a surprise visit by some of the best ballplayers the country has ever seen. Omar Linares, who we were told is the best player the country has ever produced, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. In addition, the best third baseman in the country was there, along with the starting catcher on the Havana Industriales and the Cuban National Team. Needless to say, many autographs were signed and requested along with many photos.

Following the game we enjoyed another delicious dinner at La Lucita with the opposing team. The dinner was followed by a trip to a historic 17th century Spanish fort, where we experienced a cannon firing ceremony. What a day of adventure we had today! I hope you all come back to see what we experience tomorrow.

 

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