Edmonton International Baseball Foundation
Canadian and Cuban women share baseball passion
by Baseball Canada
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
OTTAWA-If you’re a current member of the Women’s National Team, chances are you’ve travelled to Cuba in the past to play baseball.
Within the past six years, the National Team has been to Cuba twice and a group of Bantam girls have travelled to the island baseball hot bed each of the past three years.
“It’s a great opportunity for our players to get a cultural experience, while playing in a baseball mad country,” said WNT Head Coach André Lachance. “We have a tremendous relationship with the Cuban Baseball Federation which makes going down there an easy decision each year.”
Earlier this month, the WNT played a six-game exhibition series in Cuba against both the Cuban and Venezuelan National Teams. The series was used as a tune-up for the Women’s World Cup slated for August 10th -19th in Edmonton.
Team Canada ended up defeating Cuba on four occasions, while splitting two games with Venezuela.
“The series was an invaluable experience for our team as our players are removed from their comfort zone and forced to compete in an environment and against competition that is foreign to them,” explained Lachance. “The extremely hot weather was one factor we had to deal with along with eating different food and adjusting to a different style of play.”
Lachance estimates that he has travelled to Cuba over a dozen times throughout his career in baseball. The fact that baseball is the National pastime in Cuba combined with their passion for the game and skill level has made Lachance a huge fan of the Cuban culture and the way in which they play baseball.
“I swear I was a Cuban in another life,” said Lachance with a chuckle. “I really enjoy the way they compete on the baseball field and I enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.
“For me, I always look forward to visiting Cuba.”
Over the years, Lachance has formed lasting relationships with Cuban baseball legends such as Lazaro Valle, German Mesa and Enriquito Diaz. Lachance regularly invites these individuals and others to assist at practice while in Cuba.
“These players were world-class athletes and would have been stars in the big-league’s had they lived outside of Cuba,” he said. “To have them instruct at our workouts is a tremendous experience for our team.”
The rich history of baseball in Cuba dates all the way back Spanish-Cuban War where baseball was prohibited on the island.
“Baseball started in Cuba as a political weapon against Spain,” said Margarita Mayeta, Director of Women’s Baseball for the Cuban Baseball Federation. “Spanish authorities prohibited baseball on the island, but we kept on playing and fighting in the war.”
Cuban National Teams on the men’s side are a world power as they’ve captured medals at the World Cup, Pan Am Games, Olympics and World Baseball Classic in the past. With regard to women’s baseball, like Canada, the nation is developing and using events like the World Cup to improve their world ranking.
“Annually we play in several tournaments like the Women’s Day Festival in March,” added Mayeta. “There are a lot of opportunities for women to practice skill development and our Provincial teams are strong.”
Mayeta was also complimentary of the Canadian National Team and says that the series benefitted both countries in preparation for the World Cup in Edmonton.
“Cuba and Canada’s baseball relationship is truly positive for both nations,” she said. “Canada is a huge supporter of women’s baseball and their presence here has provided an increase in awareness of women’s baseball.”
Under the guidance of Cuban Baseball legend Juan Padilla, the Cuban Women’s National Team hopes to be competitive in Edmonton and is looking forward to travelling to Canada for the event.
“Juan Padilla´s presence as Cuban manager is an incentive to our team, and his experience is something important for us,” said Mayeta. “He is a baseball legend on the island.
“We expect to leave a good impression on the Canadian fans by giving our best on the field. We are going to a beautiful nation with glorious people that have gained our respect.”
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