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Pasadena girls baseball team coach views experience with Cuban team as extremely positive

From left, Team Canada (Pasadena) players Emma Hennessey and Bethany Brophy, Team Cuba players Stephany O’Connor and Danet De La Torre, and Team Canada player Victoria Hull happily exchange flags following their baseball game Saturday in Pasadena.
From left, Team Canada (Pasadena) players Emma Hennessey and Bethany Brophy, Team Cuba players Stephany O’Connor and Danet De La Torre, and Team Canada player Victoria Hull happily exchange flags following their baseball game Saturday in Pasadena.

Paul Briffett says most people see Cuba as the “Newfoundland of the Caribbean.”

He says the people here and there are similar in nature, where you can spark up a conversation with a stranger and 10 minutes later be sitting in their kitchen enjoying a warm beverage.

Though he’s not sure the average Newfoundlander could handle what Cubans refer to as “coffee.”

“Espresso is mild compared to what they drink down there,” said the Pasadena girls baseball team coach.

“It’s very strong … kind of like black tar, actually.”

Briffett speaks with experience, as he and the girls under his guidance visited Cuba for 10 days last summer as part of the Canada-Cuba Baseball Goodwill Tour.

It was during that trip that Briffett birthed the idea of hosting the Cuban girls in similar fashion, a plan that finally came to fruition over the Canada Day long weekend.

This past Thursday morning, a contingent of 17 from Cuba — including players on the team and translators — arrived in Deer Lake, with former Montreal Expo Bill (Spaceman) Lee, an ambassador with the program, and his family in tow.

They were greeted in Pasadena with a welcome breakfast hosted by the Lions Club and then spent a little of Friday evening and all day Saturday playing baseball against teams from Pasadena, Corner Brook and Grand Falls-Windsor.

The Cubans didn’t win a game, but that was never the point.

Looking at the big picture, Briffett said the Pasadena girls that took last summer’s trip to Cuba got to experience their culture and how they play the game. It also allowed them to see that not everyone enjoys their relatively privileged lifestyle, at least, as far as money and possessions go. In return, the Cuban girls making the trek here got to see another part of the world and the friendliness of the locals.

“They may be lacking in material things,” Briffett said of the Cuban girls, “but they are not lacking.”

He described them as exceptionally happy, constantly singing and dancing — simply enjoying life.

And there was plenty to enjoy about their trip, as besides the baseball tournament, they were able to take the Western Brook Pond boat tour, visit the Tablelands — “And pick up snow and throw it at each other, which they’re not going to do in Cuba,” Briffett said — and camp overnight in Killdevil, where they did a little canoeing and more hiking.

The Cuban group headed back home on Tuesday morning, the conclusion of a visit that was over a year in the making.

Briffett and company raised roughly $60,000 to bring the team here and be able to organize events and transportation during their stay. Of that $60,000, $27,500 went back into the lottery that much of the money was raised and another $6,000 went towards a new scoreboard for the Pasadena minor baseball program.

Given that cost, not to mention the cost of taking a team back down to Cuba, Briffett isn’t sure whether the two teams will cross paths again, but figures individual members of his group will likely take another trip with other clubs, as they’ve already done.

“I’m sure we’ve made lifelong friends,” he said.

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