Another great chapter has been added in the ongoing exchange between the Chemainus & District Baseball Association and Union de Reyes, Cuba.
A group from Chemainus recently returned home after being joined in Cuba this time by ball players from Duncan and Campbell River.
“They just loved it,” trip veteran Rick Shay, the Chemainus & District Baseball Association vice president, noted of the experience for the newcomers.
There are always so many interesting stories packed into a short time that it’s impossible to recount them all.
One of the unique aspects of this trip was the staging of a Hockey Night in Cuba game to introduce the baseball-mad Cubans to our national sport – the road hockey version, at least.
“We won, but we won by just the skin of our teeth,” noted Shay.
There was also a rare rainout day for baseball, actually more like a monsoon, making it impossible to play with a lake forming on the field. On the rescheduled day, it also started raining after the game had started.
The Chemainus group finished and then Campbell River was to play and normally the Union team would not play in the rain. But Campbell River was up for it and Union knew it was in the forecast to play ball. There was lots of sliding in the mud and many laughs.
“It was still fun playing in the rain,” noted Shay.
One of the parents from Campbell River emailed to thank Rick and April Shay, saying their 21-year-old son said he has never had so much fun and laughed as much as he did that day.
During the 2016 trip to Cuba, there was an adult bat boy who was severely handicapped and such a beautiful person. Rick Shay gave him his jersey and he was so proud of it. He was also given a T-shirt from the 2017 Cuban Journey from here. He died last year and requested to be buried in those shirts because it meant so much to him to be part of that day back in 2016.
A lady from Campbell River took down two walkers from her work that were going to recycling and she went into the community of Union to donate one to an older lady there, who was thrilled. And then she found out an older man in Varadero was having difficulty getting around so she went on a bus to his house and delivered it to him. She said he was so touched he began crying.
It’s those kinds of humanitarian stories that have made the trips so rewarding. The group again took down many bags of donated baseball equipment and humanitarian supplies for people in the region.
Rick Shay, Crofton’s Rob Dyke, Duncan’s Doug Cornett and company even got to do some deep sea fishing this time.
“We got three barracudas,” noted Shay.
They also went into one of the shoals and hooked up with some fresh lobster they consumed on the boat.
Seven members of the Chemainus group and the Campbell River contingent were in Cuba for a week. The others stayed for 10 days and Dyke, the originator of the trips, was there for 17 days.
There was some huge concern at home after news came out of Cuba about a plane crashing near the Havana Airport. But the baseball travellers had already left Cuba by that time, other than Dyke.
The Cubans make a return trip to Chemainus from July 19 to Aug. 3.