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In Cuba, Vermont Little Leaguers Learned About More Than Baseball

Alexandre Silberman
Teams from Vermont and Cuba share a photo after a game. An ad-hoc team of players from Burlington, Essex, Shelburne and Bristol recently traveled to Havana for a week of games and cultural exchange.

Recently, a group of Vermont little league baseball players traveled to Cuba, taking on some of the best of that island nation in the cultural and sporting trip of a lifetime. Ollie Pudvar, 12, of Shelburne, spoke with VPR to reflect on the trip.

Given the language barrier, Pudvar says the communication between the Cuban and Vermont teams was tricky.

“We had a little trouble because not many of us could speak Spanish and none, really, of them could speak English. So we really had to use the translator,” he says.   

The Cuban players were curious about Vermont and how it’s different from Cuba, Pudvar says: “We showed them a book that looked at pictures of Vermont.”

As for the baseball games, the Cuban teams, perhaps not surprisingly, demonstrated formidable skill.

“Yeah. We didn't come up on the winning side,” Pudvar says. “But we still played really hard. But they're just very good baseball players.”

Pudvar, who played center field for most of the trip, says he was impressed by the way the Cuban players could field the ball.

Credit Alexandre Silberman
Ollie Pudvar, 12, of Shelburne, played center field for the Vermont team's week of games in Cuba. In addition to competition, the players shared meals and social time.

“They were really quick on their transitions,” he says. “And they just knew how to get the ball from one place to another, really easily.”

The last game of the trip was an all-star game, and the Vermont and Cuban teams traded players: The Vermont team sent five players over to the other side, and the Cuban team sent over eight players.

“That went pretty well, because that was the one game that [we] won,” Pudvar says. “They were pretty even teams.”

Credit Alexandre Silberman
Coach Tom Simon, who led the Vermont team, congrates one of the Cuban coaches.

Pudvar says the group talked about hosting a similar tournament here in Vermont.

“We were hoping that, like, if the embargo was lifted, then they could come to Vermont and we could have a similar week like that, what we did in Cuba,” he says.

Pudvar says the highlights of the trip were spending time with the other teams after the games, sharing meals and “learning what life is like in Cuba.” The Vermonters also did some sight-seeing on their own.

“We actually went to Ernest Hemingway's house, which is pretty cool, and we got to see his boat,” Pudvar says.

Pudvar says he did some reading ahead of the trip, and learned about the United States’ history with Cuba.

“I was reading about the embargo,” he says, “and how Cuba has really gotten rundown after the embargo. And going to see it really made me notice that they don't have a lot. We take a lot of things for granted the United States.”

Read more about the trip and see photos on Burlington High School student Alexandre Silberman's blog account of the trip.

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