It’s not every day that your boss allows you to pack up with 70 people, which included 16 teenage baseball players and let you go to a communist country, but in April of 2016 that is exactly what we were able to do.
It was a goodwill mission in which a group of parents and kids from West Hartford, CT brought over a thousand pounds of athletic equipment and school supplies to the impoverished province of Holquin, Cuba. I can write for hours about this week long trip that started with a 8 hour bus trip to Montreal, then a 5 hour flight to Cuba, capped off with a 90 minute bus ride to our hotel in Cuba. The student athletes played four games in four towns/villages that were all very diverse and unique with the first game having over 2000 spectators. (This includes goats and livestock).
The ball players were treated like rock stars, and I found the Cuban people very intelligent and I was surprised by how opinionated they were. Most natives equally blamed the Cuban and US government for the embargo that has lasted 60 years, but they were all hopeful changes were coming. They were optimistic that President Obama was heading down the right path, but fearful that then candidate Trump would put an end or at the very least slow things down.
For most, we were the first Americans they have ever met and I was shocked by how much access we were allowed. Never was I told that I couldn’t record, and my reporter Jim Altman and I were able to freely walk through the city of Holquin and the neighborhoods of the province.
We ended up shooting a six part series which I included three stories…our introductory piece, our visit to a school and the wrap up story. In July, the West Hartford families were able to return the favor and 13 Cuban student athletes visited Connecticut over a 10 days which included visiting and playing in Cooperstown, New York. Simply put, this is one of my highlights of my career and a week that I continue to reminisce about.