Cuba celebrates a big sixth inning. They added four runs, including a two-run home run. (Kevin Menz/News Staff)

Visiting Cuban squad bests Victoria HarbourCats

Second Cuban visit a life-changing experience for teams

Kevin Menz/Special to Victoria News

Cuba’s Union de Reyes baseball team seems to have the Victoria HarbourCats’ number.

The visiting squad bested the HarbourCats 10-2 on Sunday night, in what was the second-ever match between the two teams. Victoria lost 8-4 to Union de Reyes last summer.

“They play hard. They come out playing to win and they play the game the right way,” HarbourCats head coach Todd Haney said after the exhibition match.

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The Cuban team opened Sunday’s scoring in the first inning at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park. Jose Cespedes scored on a Jonny Matos single and Endris Soliz added another run on an ensuing HarbourCats error.

A four-run sixth inning, which included a two-run home run from Alberto Bello, also highlighted the Cubans’ scoring.

Victoria added its scores in the sixth and seventh. The team will get another crack at Union de Reyes in Victoria on June 10.

“Hopefully we come out a little more prepared … and have shaken some of the rust off, some of the nerves off,” Haney said.

Union de Reyes is a small community in Cuba’s Matanza province. The trip to Vancouver Island is becoming an annual tradition for the community’s team — which this year is made up of players between 19 and 30 years old.

The trips are organized by the Cuban/Vancouver Island Baseball Journey Society.

“It is a life-changing experience for all of us to exchange the cultures,” group member Jan Hansen said before the match.

READ ALSO: HarbourCats kick off preseason with free Fan Fest

The game was Union de Reyes’ second of the day, as fans at Royal Athletic Park were given the opportunity earlier in the afternoon to watch the Cuban team take on an American squad. The HarbourCats invited in the Port Angeles Lefties to play Union de Reyes. The game marked the first time one of the West Coast League’s U.S.-based teams played a team from Cuba.

“What is important is the baseball. That’s the way to join us,” Cuban coach Saul Basallo Armas said through translator Juan Carlos.

The Lefties won 13-5.

Remaining stops on the Cuban team’s tour include Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith and Nanaimo, as well as another stop in Victoria. They’re also set to play in an international tournament in Grand Forks, B.C.

The HarbourCats open their regular season on the road Tuesday against the Wenatchee AppleSox.


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These Vancouver Islanders aren’t rooting for the Victoria HarbourCats tonight. They’re cheering on Team Cuba, who they helped bring to the island for several games this month. (Kevin Menz/News Staff)

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