Over the past three years, 10 American softball teams have been invited to Havana, Cuba for an annual tournament. But no Cuban team has been allowed to compete on American shores in more than 50 years.
This month, senior Cuban softball players will touch down in Boston to compete in The Friendship Games against senior athletes from the EMASS League and the Bay State Association.
“We have won some games down there,” said Glenn Shambroom, of Natick, in a press release. “But they have won more. They are great players, and it’s very tough to win on their home field. We’re ready for a very competitive series in Boston.”
American players will host their Cuban teammates while they visit – returning a favor to the Cubans, who have hosted Americans at their homes.
“We don’t all speak each other’s language, but we all love baseball, and we have such great times after the games,” said Gary Siegel, of Needham, in the release. “They invited us to their homes for dinner, had an enormous pig roast for us, and did everything imaginable to be welcoming hosts. We are looking forward to repaying their amazing hospitality.”
The Cuban team will head to Fenway Park with its American counterparts from the EMASS Teams on Aug. 25, for the Red Sox v. Kansas City Royals game, where Cuban shortstop Tony Gonzalez will throw the first pitch.
The Friendship Games will kick off with an Opening Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 26 at 3:45 at the Robert Cusick Field in Boston Commons. During the ceremony, participants will take a moment of silence to honor heavy weight Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, who won three Olympic gold medals and served as honorary captain of the Cuban softball team until his passing in June.
The double-header Cuba v. USA game will start at 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
Cuban players include Tony Gonzales, considered the greatest fielding shortstop in Cuban baseball history; Reinaldo Linares, 1967 MVP of the Cuban National Series; Carlos Cepero, coach of the Cuban National Team in the World Baseball Classic in 2009; and Armanda Aguilar, a member of the International Softball Hall of Fame.
The Friendship Games are sponsored by Educational Travel Alliance, Mass Humanities, Grand Circle Foundation, Boston Sports Club of West Newton and Clark Shoes.
The Cuban team will be in the Boston area from Aug. 23 through 30.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org