little league, cuba, twin state peregrines
The Twin State Peregrines

Little League Team Makes Controversial Cuba Trip

August 11, 2008 03:56 PM
by Denis Cummings
Little Leaguers from New Hampshire and Vermont are playing against youth teams in Cuba, the first American team to do so in eight years.

Peregrines Migrate to Cuba

The Twin State Peregrines traveled to Cuba on Friday to begin a 10-day playing tour against local teams. They opened on Sunday with a double-header in Havana, losing to Santos and defeating the Mangos.

The team was granted permission to travel by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, after three rejections and 20 months of trying. Little League International, the team’s parent organization, refused to help, but the team did receive bipartisan support from Vt. Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, and senators and congressmen from both states.

The trip drew criticism from Cuban-American politicians in Florida, specifically congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Believing that the trip supports the Cuban economy and helps to legitimize the government, Diaz-Balart called a meeting with the Cuban Democracy Caucus on Capitol Hill to discuss the trip.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a critic of the U.S. embargos on Cuba, defended the team. “If the president can go to China at taxpayers’ expense, these kids ought to be able to go on a privately paid trip to Cuba to play some baseball,” he said.

Background: Previous baseball trips to Cuba

Leahy was also involved in the Baltimore Orioles’ 1999 trip to Havana, attending the game with one other senator. That game was the first time an American professional team had played in Cuba since 1960, two years after Castro assumed power.
Other Little League teams have made the trip, the last being California’s Lost Coast Pirates in 2000. However, more stringent Cuban travel policies implemented by the Bush administration discouraged similar trips.

Cuba has implemented several democratic reforms over the past year as Fidel Castro has ceded power to his brother, Raúl. In response, President George W. Bush allowed Americans to send cell phones to relatives in Cuba, a largely symbolic gesture that reflects a softening of tensions.

Opinion & Analysis: Is it politics, or just baseball?

Dubie, who has visited Cuba twice while in office, believes that such trips will improve relations between the countries. “I believe it will lead to a better and more secure world,” he said, “and I believe it’s through grassroots connections of people-to-people and baseball teams playing one another that we expand our understanding.”

The coaches and players, however, don’t believe the trip is political. “This isn’t politics. That’s a problem of the state,” Santos coach Rey Arcel told Reuters, adding that the game was about “friendship among brothers.”

Reference: The Twin State Peregrines


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