Cuba-Canada, A Decade-old Alliance in Womens Baseball
By: Rafael Arzuaga / Photos: José Luis Anaya
The passion for baseball in Cuba was so great in those days that some key events such as the winning of the Caribbean Series medal (the first in 55 years won by the Pinar del Río team the Vegueros) and the arrival of Canada´s National Women´s Baseball Team almost went unnoticed.
This year from February 15-20 Canada brought a group of baseball players to practice in Cuba as part of the Girls´ Baseball Development Camp, allowing the players to get a break from the Canadian winter. The camp offers players a chance to participate in daily practices and games against their Cuban counterparts, with an emphasis on skill development.
This year’s camp took on extra-special meaning as it was the tenth anniversary of the relationship between the two countries in Women´s Baseball. Prior to 2005, the Cuban Baseball Federation did not have a girl’s baseball program. Canadian Women´s Baseball is a part of the growth of this discipline in Cuba, whose beginnings date back to when the International Federation of Baseball Amateurs (IBAF, initials in English) invited the Cuban team to the World Championship in 2003. Since then it became so popular that a documentary, titled It is not a men’s sport was made although never released.
When asked why Cuba was the country of choice for the team in which to practice during Canada´s winter months, André Lachance, the team´s technical director said to Cubaplus that the relationship they have established with the managers and players here over the past ten years is key. He added that it was also important for the players to work with a first class team such as the Cubans, who keep getting better and better.
This year the Girls´s Baseball Development Camp, became an important part for the Cubans´ preparation for the Pan- American Championship in the Dominican city of La Vega. The Canadians set higher objectives for themselves so that their young players could benefit from the experience of playing in another country and environement, and the trip also offered a chance for older players to start their seasons early and face some good competition at a time of year when they are normally working out indoors.
“The relationship between two countries is truly positive. Canada has a big organization and does very serious work with the women in this sport. Each one of their trips here helps sensitize the Cuban girls, it is a very good example and helps make the sport even more popular”, assured Margarita Malleta , head of the Cuban Women´s Baseball Federation. “Travelling to Cuba was a good decision, not only because it is a country with quality in baseball and that we have the privilege of playing in the Latinoamericano stadium which is full of history, but also because the sport is played here with incredible passion which inspires our players and brings even more respect to the game”, affirms Lachance.
The exchange between the teams is not only on the field but a cultural one as well. The visitors also get to take part in cultural activities, allowing them to learn more about Cuba and its people.
The coach applauds that his team get to know the Cuban climate, food, the hospitality and culture” of a nation very different from Canada, “but to which we will not stop coming, less now after celebrating our tenth year of our strong alliance”.