After four years of work, the Canada Cuba Goodwill Tour is bringing their Cuban friends to play baseball and visit Atlantic Canada. Twenty three combined players, coaches, translators and government officials will land at 12:20 a.m. on June 30th to participate in the first Canada Cuba Goodwill Tour on Canadian soil. The Cuban team will visit Halifax at Mainland Common on June 30th, Bridgewater at the Kinsmen Field on July 2nd, Moncton on July 3rd at Kiwanis Park, and Fredericton on July 5th at Royals Park. All games start with opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m.
“It is a special time in both their lives and ours,” states Dennis Woodworth, Program Development Team Lead of the tour. “Our friends are leaving their country for the first time in their lives and I am proud to help it make it happen for them,” adds Woodworth.
The Canada Cuba Goodwill Tour is a project where Woodworth has taken 12 teams from across Canada to Cuba over the last two years and has over 16 teams going in 2016, including teams from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and even a team from the U.S. this winter.
“It is a life changing experience for both our kids and the communities we visit in Cuba,” says Dennis. “Baseball is just the vehicle to learn from each other and make a difference in the world.”
The tour has donated over $100,000 in equipment donated from local associations, businesses and people from all over Canada. The group has also donated school supplies to each community they visit as well.
This trip that the Cuban team is taking has been a dream that they wouldn’t even imagine, even after Woodworth made his promise to them about coming to his country.
“It is an action packed week including games, visiting historical landmarks in Atlantic Canada and learning from our culture,” adds Woodworth.
Former MLB legends Devon Whyte, who is a 1992, 1993 and 1997 World Series Champion and ambassador of the tour along with Boston Red Sox legends Bill Lee and Luis Tiant will be on the tour with the group. They will be at all of the games to promote the goodwill that this tour has provided. Both Lee and Tiant pitched for the 1975 Red Sox in the World Series, and this summer marks the 30th anniversary of that event. Luis Tiant is one of the most recognized Cuban born players that ever played in US Major League Baseball.
“It’s a dream come true! I have always imagined visiting other countries, but it became real when we received our passports and visas!,” adds Yosel Vasquez, on ground coordinator in Cuba. “We never thought this day would come….and now’s it has arrived!”
You can bring donations to the game for the team as they will be allowed to return with them on their way back to Cuba.
Source: The Nova Scotia – Cuba Association (NSCUBA) on Facebook slightly edited for this publication
Some photos are from Dennis Woodworth’s Facebook page