A happy player from La Habana after winning a round of the pre-game skills competition.
The front desk in the lobby of our hotel, the Bella Habana.
The La Luceita Restaurant, where the players enjoyed a postgame meal.
Will Gumbrell looks on at the batter while playing second base.
The top competitors in a division of the skills competition. Ollie Pudvar (center), and Anna Jenemann (right).
Eli Bostwick (left) poses for a photo with a player from the the Havana provincial team during the postgame lunch.
Skills competition officials observe the competition.
Tate Agnew (right) poses with the winner of the outfield portion of the skills competition.
Players from both teams switched sides for a great experience.
A sign near the U.S. Embassy that in English reads: “patriotism or death!”
The lobby of our hotel, the Bella Habana.
Vermont players (from left to right) Noland Simon, Anna Jenemann, and Ollie Pudvar watch the skills competition that was held before the game.
Tate Agnew makes a throw home during the skills competition.
The team poses for a photo with the Vermont and United States flags outside the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
Ollie Pudvar of team Vermont watches his hit after making contact. He went five for his last six at-bats while in Cuba!
Ollie Pudvar (right), shakes hands with the first place competitor in the base running skills competition.
Running to first base in the game against the provincial team.
Journaling in the airport after the trip of a lifetime.
La Habana, the Havana provincial team, warms up prior to their game against Vermont.
Enjoying a final dinner before departing from Cuba.Enjoying a final dinner before departing from Cuba.
Delicious drinks at the farewell dinner.
Beautiful architecture on the Havana waterfront.
A slugger from La Habana, the provincial team, up to bat.
From left to right: Vermont player Nolan Simon, star Cuban pitcher Yosvani Aragon, and Vermont coach Tom Simon,.
We stopped by the United States Embassy in Havana for a photo.
Star Cuban pitcher Yosvani Aragon gives Vermont player Nolan Simon a pitching lesson.
A player from La Habana makes a throw to home plate during the skills competition.
Rounding the bases during the baserunning part of the skills competition.
Vermont Coach Tom Simon gets a jersey signed by Yosvani Aragon, a former star Cuban pitcher. The jersey is the final one he ever wore, and was given to Simon as a gift.
Receiving instructions prior to the skills competition.
The grandson of Jesus Gutierrez, a Cuban Baseball Federation official, hits a ball before the game.
The American flag flying at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
Eli Bostwick watches the pitcher while warming-up.
Ollie Pudvar reaches out to make a catch in centerfield, just barely missing the ball.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana.
From left to right: Vermont parent Wendy Watson, translator and guide Lester Bolla, and parent Tim Pudvar at the Olivo restaurant following the final dinner.
Our translator, Lester Bolla, shakes the hand of Vermont player Anna Jenemann after receiving a Vermont baseball t-shirt.
Playa del Este, the beach where we enjoyed a dip in the ocean.
Anna Jenemann (#12) up to bat during the final ballgame of the week.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana, which reopened less than one year ago.
Desserts from the buffet at the farewell dinner.
An exterior view of our hotel, the Bella Habana.
Ollie Pudvar of Team Vermont, looks on at the action.
Andrew Goodrich of team Vermont gets ready for the pitch in the team’s game against La Habana.
The author of this blog along with our guide and translator, Lester Bolla.
Playa del Este, the beach where we enjoyed a dip in the ocean.
Chemicals in the air released to kill mosquitoes and prevent Zika virus. This is a regular practice in Cuba.
Anna Jenemann of Team Vermont plays right field.
Enjoying a post game lunch.
Enjoying a final dinner before departing from Cuba.
Andrew Goodrich makes a throw while playing shortstop against the Havana provincial team.
A banner in the dugout for La Habana, the Havana provincial team.
A Vermont catcher takes part in the pre-game skills competition.
Nolan Simon receives his certificate for completion of studies at the Jose Marti Institute.
A group of countless flag poles, a reminder of the Cold War. Many Cuban flags once flew here to block propaganda projected by the U.S.
Ollie Pudvar waits for instruction from his new coach after reaching first base.
We woke up early this morning, as we had to arrive at the field for 8:30 am for a very special and important game. Our competition was La Habana–the provincial all-star team containing the best players in the entire city. The team is also essentially the 11-12 year old academy team for the Havana Industriales. Following Cuban tradition, we started the game with a skills competition, something always done before all-star games. The competition included four categories: throws to second base by the catchers (for accuracy), throws from centerfield to home plate, running from home to first, and running around all the bases. Speedy Vermonter Cyrus Perkinson earned the only American victory in any of the competitions, but it was a solid win nonetheless. Perkinson picked up first place in the home to first base running challenge, with a blistering time of 3.29 seconds.
The game started with a unique experience. In order to create a fun, competitive, and balanced team, five Cuban players, and five American players switched sides. The kids had fun interacting with their new teammates and playing alongside them in the field. There were some incredibly talented Cuban ballplayers. The Havana team included the best catcher in the nation, Julio Cesar Perez, and the second best pitcher, Marcos Reyes. He was throwing scorching fastballs the entire team he pitched, and almost struck out the side. Coach Tom Simon played catch with him and said his hand was swollen after. He later asked him at lunch how fast he pitches, and Reyes let him know that he reaches 70 mph!
Head coach Jim Carter was pleased with the decision to mix the teams. He said it was a terrific way to end the week.
It will be interesting to watch these Cuban players in the future. Some of them had tremendous talent, and several could possible be Major League caliber in the future.
The game was a first for the Vermonters–a victory against one of the best teams around. The final score was 13-5, a solid victory for the American team (with a little help from the Cubans). Ozzie Kost had a solid play at third base and Nolan Simon contributed some sharp pitching and catching. Simon’s highlight of the game was striking out a top Cuban slugger in the third inning. Ollie Pudvar continued his hot streak at the plate, leading the way for the Americans by going five for his last six at-bats. Tate Agnew played several strong innings at first base, making key plays and snags. Eli Bostwick was also a top contributer, catching the blazing fast Cuban pitchers for the last four innings.
For those of you who were unaware (I forgot to mention this in earlier posts), one of our players, Carter Monks, was injured in the second game. He hurt his knee while stretching out to make a catch at first base. He is unable to play, but doing very well. The Cubans have been treating him very graciously, and had him throw out the first pitch today.
After out ballgame we headed off to lunch with the Habana all-stars. WE enjoyed a delicious meal with the team, and Coach Tom Simon received a one-of-a-kind gift from Yosvani Aragon, a great Cuban pitcher. He gave Simon the final jersey he had ever worn in a baseball game, and signed it. Wow, what a gift!
Our next stop–Playa del Este, for a brief but enjoyable dip in the ocean. Everyone enjoyed the refreshing and salty waters at the nicest beach in Havana. It was a great way to finish off the week.
Our bus speed off from the beach to bring us to our farewell dinner. We enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. Jorge and Lorraine were there and provided us with certificates from the Marti Center. It was a great moment of reflection on this wonderful journey we have all experienced together. I cannot wait to share with you all the great photos and videos I have taken this week. While I have not posted any photos tonight, as soon as I arrive back in the United States I will provide you with the photos that accompany all these posts.
I am posting from the Havana Airport. Our flight will in half an hour, and while we all had a fantastic adventure, we are looking forward to heading home.
Goodbye from Havana for the final time!