Politics aside as US beat Cuba in baseball
Sat, 07 Jul 2012 1:53p.m.
Cuba and the United States put political differences behind them with the second in a five-game baseball series between the historically troubled neighbours after a 16-year hiatus in sporting relations.
A U.S. squad of 22 university players and five coaches arrived in Cuba on Thursday and played the first of their games against the national Cuban team in the Latin American Stadium in Havana the same night, beating the home team 4-3.
Michael Conforto's grand slam in the sixth inning with a left-handed hit and Jonathan Crawford's 6 1-3 innings of strong pitching secured victory for the Americans.
Cuban fans, like Yoidey Garcia, appreciated the U.S. performance.
"The American team played a good game, the Cuban team had bad direction. I like that Bell (Alex - outfielder for the Cuban baseball team, emerging batsman in this game) has failed because he needs to be a regular on the Cuban team, they said that the regular (players) were the best on the team," he said.
There was also great play on the Cuban side by the likes of Frederich Cepeda and Yulieski Gourriel who both tried to claw back a victory with runs in the seventh and eighth innings respectively and many Cubans still hold hopes that their team will win the series as a whole.
"I think that Cuba is going to win (the series in general). Cuba lost (today) but I don't agree (with the result)," said Hilda Lopez, a Cuban supporter.
The series will see the teams play one game per day from Thursday until Monday and the contest is far from over.
Gustavo Crespo acknowledged that Cuba still had a chance but would have to modify their game to get results.
"(It was) an excellent performance from the young Americans. Cuba must adjust the mechanics (of their game) and improve bit by bit, and overcome this defeat."
Both teams are using the friendlies as a warm-up for the Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands and as a chance to prepare for the III World Baseball Classic.
Cuba and the U.S. began facing off in baseball series at the end of the 1970s but this tradition was interrupted in 1996 after a change in direction within the USA Baseball organization. USA Baseball President Mike Gaski said that it was a combination of factors including funding, timing and scheduling, as well as political concerns which kept play from resuming until now.
The last time the teams played in these series was the same year Cuba shot down two planes flown by an anti-Castro exile group and then U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which hardened the U.S. trade embargo.
The teams hope to give some continuity to the exchange and there are plans for the Cuban team to pay a reciprocal visit to the U.S. next year.
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