Young sluggers visit Cuba for baseball and friendship

A team of 11- and 12- year olds, including Shelburne resident Oliver Pudvar, will travel to Cuba to play baseball over April break. Photo credit: Frederic Silberman
A team of 11- and 12- year olds, including Shelburne resident Oliver Pudvar, will travel to Cuba to play baseball over April break. Photo credit: Frederic Silberman

School vacations can be an exciting time for students, but this April break is one to which 12-year-old Oliver Pudvar is especially looking forward. That is because he will be spending it embarking on the trip of a lifetime. He and his father, Tim, will be part of a group of Chittenden County residents heading to Cuba to enjoy one of the things for which the island nation is best known–baseball.

There will be nine young baseball players from Burlington, Essex Junction, Shelburne, and Bristol. The trip came about due to the Burlington-based Cuban American Friendship Society (CAFS). Baseball author and historian Tom Simon, who will be helping to manage the team of nine players, said that his friend and CAFS board member Sandy Baird had really wanted to put together a trip. Initially, Baird had envisioned a trip for adults to watch baseball. Feedback led to putting together a trip for the team of 11- and 12-year-olds to go play baseball.

The players’ coach is Jim Carter, who gained a reputation during his years as a Winooski High School and University of Vermont baseball coach. Much of the kids’ time will be spent practicing and playing five schedule baseball games–with the final one having them face off against a select team from the province. Following each game, the players will leave their jerseys and equipment with their Cuban counterparts. To that end, there have been fundraising efforts to help cover the costs of these items. On Apr. 2, the group held a fundraising dinner and silent auction at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center in Burlington. There is also a page at the YouCaring crowdfunding site, which can be found at www.youcaring.com/vermont-little-league-cuba-trip-538368.

Off the baseball field, the six days will be spent engaging in cultural activities. Simon said that players will visit Ernest Hemingway’s house, see the Museum of the Revolution, and will take a walking tour of the squares and more. After their games, players will have the chance to hang out with the Cuban athletes and have dinner together.

“[They are] going to learn a lot about the history and local culture…and [are] going to have a lot of fun,” Simon said. Most of all, he expects that the trip will be a great opportunity for the boys to forge new friendships.

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