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Cuba Baseball Sports Tour

Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 1860s by Cubans who studied in the United States and American sailors who ported in the country. The sport quickly spread across the island nation. Nemisio Guillo is credited with bringing a bat and baseball to Cuba in 1864 after being schooled in Mobile, Alabama.

Two more Cubans were sent to Mobile, one being his brother Ernesto; the Guillo brothers and their contemporaries formed a Baseball team in 1868, the Habana Baseball Club. The club won one major match against the crew of an American schooner anchored at the Matanzas harbour.

The first official match in Cuba took place in Pueblo Nuevo, Matanzas, at the Palmar del Junco, December 27, 1874. It was between Club Matanzas and Club Habana, the latter winning 51 to 9, in nine innings

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Cuba Baseball & Sports Tour, 2011.

Overview



Baseball has been a central symbol of Cuban pride since the late 19th Century.

In late 1878 the Cuban League was organized, consisting of three teams: Almendares, Habana, and Mantanzas and playing four games per team. The first game was played on December 29, 1878, with Habana defeating Almendares 21 to 20. Habana, under team captain Bellán, was undefeated in winning the first championship. The teams were amateurs (and all whites), but gradually professionalism took hold as teams bid away players from rivals.

In 1899, the All Cubans, consisting of Cuban League professional players, were the first Latin American team to tour the United States. The team returned in 1902–05, exposing white Cuban players to U.S. major league and minor league scouts, and introducing black Cuban players to competition against the Negro leagues. Later Negro league teams included the Cuban Stars and the New York Cubans, which were stocked mostly with Cuban or other Latin American players.

Amateur baseball in Cuba was thriving in the 1940s and deepened the organization and maturity of the league. There were several amateur leagues in Cuba. Many of the leagues were composed of factory or businesses workers who represented their individual companies. Main sources of talent for Cuban baseball teams were from sugarmill baseball, semi-professional teams, and the amateur leagues.

Original amateur teams represented exclusive social clubs in the Havana area, such as the Velado Tennis club. The term “amateur baseball” is defined as “specifically the game played by social clubs who played in the Amateur league”.Cubans refer to this league as los amateurs. The growth of amateur baseball can be attributed to the economic recovery in Cuba around 1934. In 1934 there were only six teams but by 1940 that grew to eighteen.

After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the revolutionary government chose it as a symbol of excellence and a voice for the rallying cry of nationalism. Shortly after the revolution, victorious guerilla leaders demonstrated their Cuban spirit by engaging in exhibition baseball games, with such symbolic gestures reinforcing the notion that baseball would be an integral component of Revolutionary Cuba.

In 1961, the Cuban government replaced the former professional baseball system with new amateur baseball leagues such as the Cuban National Series.

Post-revolutionary baseball in Cuba would be based on a socialist model of sports not driven by money, but by national ideals. This fundamental shift from a professional to amateur system was preceded by the introduction of a very important institute: the Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER).

Sports participation in Cuba was also universalized and thus made an essential component of revolutionary activity. The term coined to describe such a process was Masividad, and sports served the purpose to not only educate and train the Cuban people, but also to allow them yet another opportunity to fit in an egalitarian society that conformed to the very principles of the revolution.

Everything has seemingly been positive, however not everything went as planned. Since the professional system was abolished in-favor of amateur leagues, players were not paid as extravagantly as they once were. This led many players to defect to the United States due to deteriorating economic conditions.

Yes, Cuba lost a lot of baseball talent during this time, but the resilient spirit of the Cuban citizens on the island will inevitably help close the gap. The Cuban government to this very day is also somewhat hostile in relation to the players that did defect in the 1990s. Some officials in the Cuban government believe the defectors currently playing in the USA are baseball slaves no matter how highly they are rewarded with monetary incentives.

Please, check the day-by-day itinerary below. Welcome Aboard!

Cuba Sports & Baseball Tour Highlights:

  • Tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Havana Historical Centre.
  • Private meeting with the Baseball Federation of Cuba.
  • Visit to the Children's Academy of Baseball at the Sports City.
  • Visit stadium where Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame was created.
  • Premium seats at several baseball games thorugh Cuba.
  • Cocktail party at Club Habana with sports journalists.
  • Guided tour of UNESCO World Heritage site, Cienfuegos.
  • Travel to UNESCO sites, historical Trinidad and Sugar Mill Valley.
  • Guided tour of Santa Clara City.
  • Visit to Che Guevara Square of Revolution and Mausoleum.
  • Lecture on Cuba's National Series by Baseball Journalists.
  • Explore Cuba's famous Old Havana's Handicraft Market.
  • Explore breath-taking landscapes at Vinales Valley National Park.
  • Guided tour of Partagas Cigar Factory, founded in 1845.

Notes on Cuban Baseball:

In 1869, during the Cuban War of Independence against Spain, Spanish authorities ban playing baseball in Cuba because Cubans preferred baseball over bullfights, which Cubans were expected to dutifully attend as homage to their Spanish rulers in an informal cultural mandate. As such, baseball became symbolic of freedom and egalitarianism to the Cuban people. The ban prompted Esteban Bellán to join the semipro Troy Haymakers. He became the first Latin American player to play in a Major League in the United States.
Cuba's Baseball Championship generally runs from November through April with a schedule of 90 games per team in the regular season. The series is then followed by 3 playoff rounds culminating in a championship. This series has been played each winter since 1961-62. There are 16 teams organized in a West League and an East League. The players are amateurs and play for the provinces in which they reside.
A highlight of the Cuba baseball tour is the visit to the Partagas Cigar Factory, founded in 1845 by Spaniard Don Jaime Partagas. Don Jaime owned many of the best plantations in the Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region of Cuba and being able to choose from among the finest tobaccos on the island made the brand Paratagas incredibly successful.
Yulieski Gurriel played a key role in the World Baseball Classic of 2006. In Cuba, he plays for Los Gallos. We will attend a baseball game at Jose Antonio Huelga Stadium, home of Sancti Spiritus Gallos. The stadium holds 13,000 people.
Vinales Valley is the pride and joy of the citizens of western Cuba and probably of all Cubans. It's one of the most visited sites in Cuba. Thousands of visitors visit the Valley, go inside its caves, admire its nature and get to know its culture and particular Vinales cuisine. Another great place, the Cuba baseball sports tour visits!
Attend baseball games at Latino americano Stadium, popularly known in Cuba as "The Colossus of Cerro” is home of Ciudad Habana Industriales. The stadium holds 55,000 people. In 1999, it hosted an exhibition series between Cuban National Team and the Baltimore Orioles.
Post-revolutionary baseball in Cuba would be based on a socialist model of sports not driven by money, but by national ideals. This fundamental shift from a professional to amateur system was preceded by the introduction of a very important institute: the Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER).
Palacio de Valle, an architectural jewel of Cienfuegos that originated as a home for trader, Celestino Caceres, who later gave it as a wedding present to the Valle family that added to it (in a Mughal Style with carved floral motifs) a stunning Carrara marble staircase, cupped arches, bulbous domes and delicate arabesques.
Former baseball stadium La Tropical, where the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame was created in 1936. Event that is marked by a commemorative bronze plaque in the lobby of the stadium. On 2005, Cuba announced that a building to house the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame would be built in Palmar del Junco, Havana, the site of the first game in Cuba took place in 1874.
Cuba baseball sports tour travels to Trinidad's Historical Centre, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, featuring a wealth of architectural buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

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  • Day 1. Saturday 21 March 2015. Hello Cuba

    Arrival at "Jose Marti" International Airport in Havana City.

    Group welcomed by the Authentic Cuba Travel Cuban Guide. Transfer to Hotel Habana Libre, located at Vedado neighbourhood the cultural center of Havana City. Private group check-in.

    Breakfast is complimentary from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

    Evening: cocktail party and meeting with Cuban baseball journalists for an introduction on the history of the National Baseball Championship (Serie Nacional de Beisbol).

    The National Baseball Championship generally runs from November through April with a schedule of 90 games per team in the regular season. The series is then followed by 3 playoff rounds culminating in a championship. This series has been played each winter since 1961-62. There are 16 teams organized in a West League and an East League. The players are amateurs and play for the provinces in which they reside. All of the provinces in Cuba are represented by teams. The top four teams from each league advance to a playoff, with the winner crowned in April. Two teams have dominated the National Series in recent years: Industriales and Santiago de Cuba.

    Day 2. Sunday 22 March 2015. Havana

    Morning: meet with representative of the Baseball Federation of Cuba (Federacion Cubana de Beisbol), the governing body of the sport of baseball in Cuba. Introduction to the Cuban National Baseball System, which is not a single baseball league; rather it is a structure of leagues and series that culminate in the National Baseball Championship (Serie Nacional de Beisbol) and the selection of the Cuba National Baseball Team.

    Followed by visit to Partagas Cigar Factory, founded in 1845 by Spaniard Don Jaime Partagas. Don Jaime owned many of the best plantations in the Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region of Cuba and being able to choose from among the finest tobaccos on the island made the brand Paratagas incredibly successful.

    Lunch in La Mina restaurant where you can enjoy traditional Cuban dishes and music live!

    Afternoon: guided walking tour of Old Havana, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Visit to Square of Arms, ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers and surrounded by impressive buildings such as:

    Palacio de los Capitanes Generales was the former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City.

    Palacio del Segundo Cabo. The seat of the second authority of the island. Today it houses important publishing houses.

    Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the second oldest fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies.

    Continue walking tour onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest in the historical quarter.

    Visit to Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Notice it doesn't have a church or government building around. Here we will visit important institution for visual arts.

    Visit to the Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza of Cuba, named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Cathedral of Havana built by the Jesuit order.

    Free time in the famous handicraft market of Old Havana where you can purchase all sorts of crafts and souvenirs by local artisans.

    Return to hotel.

    Evening: attend baseball game at Latinoamericano Stadium, popularly known in Cuba as "The Colossus of Cerro” is home of Ciudad Habana Industriales. The stadium holds 55,000 people. In 1999, it hosted an exhibition series between Cuban National Team and the Baltimore Orioles.

    Day 3. Monday 23 March 2015. Explore Cuba's Mogotes at Vinales Valley

    Day tour to Pinar del Rio.

    Exploration of Vinales Valley, containing the most spectacular scenery in Cuba and some of the most interesting and varied geological formations on the island. The valley is particularly famous for its great freestanding rock formations called mogotes.

    Visit local farms and meet with farmers that have grown the best tobacco in the world for centuries.

    Visit to Cueva del Indio (the Indian Cave), an extensive cave system, of which 1km of the cave is open to travellers. After following a path from the entrance you walk through some small and narrow galleries before boarding a small boat for a trip along the underground river for a fantastic view deep inside the cave.

    Lunch at Mural de La Prehistoria restaurant.

    Free time in Viñales downtown to explore at leisure the open-air craft market, the Parque Marti, the Church, and other interesting sites of this charming colonial town.

    Continue on bus ride to Pinar del Rio city.

    Dinner at Pinar del Rio Hotel.

    Evening: attend baseball game at Capitan San Luis Stadium, home of Pinar del Rio baseball team. The stadium holds 8,000 people. National Series Schedule governs itinerary.

    Return to Havana City.

    Day 4. Tuesday 24 March 2015. Havana- Santa Clara

    Morning: departure to Santa Clara, capital city of the Cuban province of Villa Clara. It is located in the most central region of the province and almost in the most central region of the country.

    Santa Clara was the site of the last battle of the Cuban Revolution in late 1958, led by Ernesto Che Guevara. Guevara's column first captured the garrison at Fomento. Then, using a bulldozer, Guevara's soldiers destroyed railroad tracks and derailed a train full of troops and supplies sent by Batista. After taking the city of Santa Clara, Batista fled Cuba less than 12 hours later.

    Visit to Ernesto Che Guevara Square of Revolution and Mausoleum, where the remains of Che and 16 of his men killed in action in 1967 in Bolivia rest in peace. This is a memorial complex featuring a large square, used for parades and large rallies, a monument now emblematic of Santa Clara, and a mausoleum crypt with an exhibit displaying artefacts, photos and memorabilia of Che, an extensive view of his life and work.

    Visit to the Armoured Train Battle Monument, the site where guerrilla forces commanded by Che Guevara defeated reinforcements sent in an armoured train (tren blindado) by Batista's army in 1958. The monument site includes original armoured boxcars with displays of photos, armaments and artefacts inside, and a bulldozer used by the rebels to derail the train.

    Late lunch at Los Caneyes hotel and private check in.

    Afternoon: free to relax by swimming pool of the hotel in preparation for tonight’s baseball expedition.

    Evening: attend baseball game at Augusto César Sandino Stadium, home of Villa Clara Naranjas. The stadium holds 20,000 people. National Series Schedule governs itinerary.

    Day 5. Wednesday 25 March 2015. Santa Clara- Cienfuegos

    Late morning: transfer to the city of Cienfuegos, founded by French immigrants at the beginning of the 19th century and renowned for its wealth of stunning historical buildings.

    Visit to Palacio de Valle upon arrival. This architectural jewel originated as a home for trader, Celestino Caceres, who later gave it as a wedding present to the Valle family who added to it (in a Mughal Style with carved floral motifs) a stunning Carrara marble staircase, cupped arches, bulbous domes and delicate arabesques.

    Upon arrival, your guide will recount the story of the origins of this beautiful cosmopolitan city, known as the "Pearl of the South”. You'll walk its main Plaza Martí where the ceremony of its foundation took place, as do many important events still today.

    We'll visit such neoclassical buildings the Cathedral built with donations from wealthy slave owning families, enduring names like Lebranc, Albi, and Terry. Inside the Cathedral a marvelously rendered stained glass mural of the Twelve Apostles imported from Paris will awe you. The original machinery of the Cathedral's tower clock was also crafted in France and keeps on ticking to this day.

    Visit the Tomas Terry Theatre, completed in 1895 named after a sugar baron from Venezuela who arrived in Cuba with no money and made his fortune by buying sick slaves for a low price, to later nurse them back to health and reselling them, this money was invested in a sugar estate what brought him the wealth to build several outstanding buildings in Cienfuegos, including this theatre, with materials specially brought over from Europe.

    We will also visit the Casa de la Cultura, home of another wealthy sugar baron, stunning mansion in neoclassical style.

    We'll visit the elegant art gallery Galería de Arte Maroya and review its impressively displayed collection of paintings, sculptures and antiques.

    Check in at Jagua Hotel. Dinner at hotel

    Evening: attend baseball game at Cinco de Septiembre Stadium, home of Cienfuegos Camaroneros. The stadium holds 30,000 people. National Series Schedule governs itinerary.

    Day 6. Thursday 26 March 2015. Cienfuegos- Trinidad

    Morning: check out of your hotel and transfer to Trinidad City.

    Guided walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad’s Historical Center, a perfect relic of the early days of the Spanish colony with beautifully preserved streets and buildings with hardly a trace of the 20th century anywhere.

    Visit to the Architecture Museum (Casa de los Sanchez Iznaga), housing the most representative samples of the city's architectural development in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Visit to Museo Lucha contra Bandidos, former home of the San Francisco de Asis convent.

    Visit to Museo Romantico, overlooking the Trinidad main square. It has an excellent exhibition of romantic style porcelain, glass, paintings and decorative furniture which belonged to the Conde de Brunet and other Trinidad notorious families.

    We will stop at a mirador (lookout) over the Sugar Mill Valley, where the sugar barons used to have their countryside mansions and mills. This site is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Trinidad is well known for its pottery makers. We meet with a family that has been passing the tradition for generations: the Santanders.

    Check in at all-inclusive Trinidad del Mar. You'll have time for dinner and a swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

    Evening: attend baseball game at Jose Antonio Huelga Stadium, home of Sancti Spiritus Gallos. The stadium holds 13,000 people. National Series Schedule governs itinerary.

    Day 7. Friday 27 March 2015. Trinidad- Havana

    Morning: transfer back to Havana city.

    Lunch at El Aljibe restaurant.

    Afternoon: visit to the Children's Academy of Baseball at the City of Sport.

    Good opportunity to make donations of baseball equipment to children baseball players and discuss the remarkable Cuban sport program.

    Followed by panoramic air conditioned coach tour of the most important historical sites in the Modern Havana neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar including the Revolution Square, University of Havana, Habana Libre Hotel, Coppelia Ice Cream Park, Plaza José Martí (in front of U.S. Interests Section), Monument to the Battleship Maine, Malecón seawall, Prado promenade, Central Park, The Great Theatre and the Capitol building.

    We will also visit:

    Christopher Columbus cemetery one of the most elaborated burial grounds in the world to admire the Baseball Monument devoted to those who extensively promote de ball game in 19th and 20th century.

    Former baseball stadium La Tropical, where the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame was created in 1936. Event that is marked by a commemorative bronze plaque in the lobby of the stadium. On 2005, Cuba announced that a building to house the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame would be built in Palmar del Junco, Havana, the site of the first game in Cuba took place in 1874.

    Parque Central and participate in a baseball Peña (open street forum) and later visit Plaza Hotel where Babe Ruth and the touring McGraw Giants stayed in 1920.

    Check in at your hotel Tryp Habana Libre.

    Evening: attend baseball game at Latinoamericano Stadium, popularly known in Cuba as "The Colossus of Cerro” is home of Ciudad Habana Industriales. The stadium holds 55,000 people. In 1999, it hosted an exhibition series between Cuban National Team and the Baltimore Orioles.

    Day 8. Saturday 28 March 2015. Departure

    Early morning departure to Havana City International Airport for departure.

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