I am not ordinarily into sports, but I love Bill Littlefield’s Saturday sports wrap-up on WBUR because he is a great storyteller, and he looks for offbeat sports stories.
Today he had one on the over-65 U.S. softball players who have games with an over-65 team from Cuba.
“The Eastern Massachusetts Senior Softball Association has been sending teams to Cuba for annual exhibitions called ‘The Friendship Games.’ The first four EMASS Softball teams visited Havana in 2009 and the meeting reminded [organizer Mike] Eizenberg of kids playing pickup.
“ ‘When we went onto the field, it felt exactly the same way to all of us,’ Eizenberg recalled. ‘Most of the players didn’t speak the others’ language, but we all just loved to play ball.’
“Before that game, Cuban authorities allowed local musicians to play the U.S. and Cuban national anthems. That hadn’t happened in Cuba in 50 years. After three years of exhibitions, Eizenberg decided bringing the Cubans to the States was worth a try. He’s still amazed his Cuban friends made it.
“ ‘No one ever believed that it would be possible for them to come here. All of a sudden, magically, we received permission both from the U.S. government and the Cuban government for the players to come here,’ Eizenberg said. ‘[The Cuban players] say that this proves that nothing is impossible. If this can happen, anything can happen.’ …
“EMASS Softball player Les Gore says the Cubans and the Americans share a love of baseball and softball, but their sports resumes are a bit mismatched.
“ ‘The people playing here representing the U.S. and we’re talking about doctors, lawyers, plumbers. We’re just average guys who love to play softball,’ Gore said. ‘But the Cubans, many of the people who play for the Cuban softball leagues were in their time probably some of the most prominent baseball players that the island has ever produced, so we’re playing against those people.’ ” More.
Photograph: WBUR at Flickr