The fields are coming around for the 2006 Olympic qualifier in Havana Cuba which starts this Friday. With great support from all involved the final pieces are falling into place. Earlier last week we were able to watch the game at left… USA National team playing Taiwan in the Final Gold Medal Game. USA went on to win 18-9 at Latino Americana Stadium. A large group from the American Interest Section in Havana, attended the game which had a real impact on the final results.
There is still a lot of work to be done but the heart and passion of the Cuban people for the game of baseball is un-matched around the baseball world. Kids playing stick-ball on the streets, fields in poor condition and resources to improve them being extremely scarce, makes it tough to understand how they have become such a baseball powerhouse.
The baseball federation has our group providing oversight and field maintenance education before and during the tournament at all three venues which include Nelson Fernandez Stadium, Changa and Latino Americana. With our driver and guide we travel in around Cuba daily to check on each field’s developments, renovations, etc. After some delays, of materials arriving out of the port to begin the renovations, it appears the only thing that can slow the progress is the rain.. and since it is the tropics rain is everyday in the afternoon.
Traveling to Cuba is not an easy task for Americans. There is a series of checks and reviews to validate an official license granted by the Department of Treasury. We have a pretty good size staff including Chad Olsen, Darrell lemmer, Budgie Clark, Erik Frye, Brian Fitzpatrick, Rick Newville and myself. We are traveling to an from Cuba in shifts.
I will be blogging from Havana over the next few weeks about the field and turf conditons in the country as well as the tournament. With only two spots available in this 12- team tournament to make it to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I am sure the competition will be exciting.