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Pirates had time of their life participating in Goodwill Tour in Cuba


Hailey Martin has a better appreciation for everything she has in life after spending 10 days in Cuba as part of the Canada-Cuba Baseball Goodwill Tour.

Martin, a 15-year-old Pasadena native, travelled to Veradero, Cuba as a member of the Pasadena Pirates Under-15 female baseball team under the watchful eye of coach Paul Briffett.

“It was absolutely amazing. It was an unforgettable experience,” Martin said of the trip.

The adventure was a humanitarian mission designed to help Cuban kids enjoy the game of baseball like the youngsters in Canada who have so much more opportunity available to them. The team played a handful of games against Cuban girls in Mantanzas and Marti, and also participated in a baseball camp hosted by members of Cuba’s national baseball team with former Toronto Blue Jays star Devon White accompanying the team as the tour’s ambassador.

Outside the confines of the baseball field, the Pirates also had the pleasure of visiting a couple of schools where they delivered suitcases of school supplies and other items to every student to help make life a little easier for them.

Seeing the smiles on the faces of the young children when they received their gifts was an eye opener for Martin.

“We handed them a pencil and they were so grateful,” she said. “It told me that we should be more grateful for what we have and we don’t realize how good we have it here.”

Playing against two different groups of girls during the trip was a lot of fun for Martin and company. It was grassroots baseball at its best with so many girls on both sides fairly new to the game, but Martin was impressed with how well everybody embraced a chance to play the game with nobody concerned about the language barrier or differences in the way lives are lived.

What really stands out as a highlight was the game played in Marti. Once word spread that a bunch of Canadian girls were in town to play some baseball a civic holiday was declared and all schools and businesses were closed for the day.

“The stands were absolutely full. The whole entire town was there to watch,” Martin said.

It was exciting, yet very nerve-racking for all hands because they didn’t expect to create such a buzz among the local people.

“I remember my friend Kimberly Carey was first up to bat and she was shaking she was so nervous,” she said.

Claire Butt, a 15-year-old pitcher who had the pleasure of being picked to play for a Nova Scotia team that participated in the tour last year, was on board for this year’s trip and she had an even better time because she got to share it with some of her teammates and good friends.

She enjoyed playing the game and got caught up in all the hype on the diamond, but she really enjoyed being able to go back and visit some of the students she had met one year ago when she brought them school supplies.

“Getting to see all the kids and how grateful they were to receive school supplies and things like that,” Butt said. “I got to go to the same school again so it was nice to see some of the same people who were there last year.”

Martin has only been playing baseball for a year, but she has no doubt she will be spending her time on the diamond during the summer months. She just had an experience she won’t forget anytime soon and recommends the experience to anybody who ever gets an opportunity to do what she just did.

“Of course, absolutely. You will not regret it,” she said.

Martin, a 15-year-old Pasadena native, travelled to Veradero, Cuba as a member of the Pasadena Pirates Under-15 female baseball team under the watchful eye of coach Paul Briffett.

“It was absolutely amazing. It was an unforgettable experience,” Martin said of the trip.

The adventure was a humanitarian mission designed to help Cuban kids enjoy the game of baseball like the youngsters in Canada who have so much more opportunity available to them. The team played a handful of games against Cuban girls in Mantanzas and Marti, and also participated in a baseball camp hosted by members of Cuba’s national baseball team with former Toronto Blue Jays star Devon White accompanying the team as the tour’s ambassador.

Outside the confines of the baseball field, the Pirates also had the pleasure of visiting a couple of schools where they delivered suitcases of school supplies and other items to every student to help make life a little easier for them.

Seeing the smiles on the faces of the young children when they received their gifts was an eye opener for Martin.

“We handed them a pencil and they were so grateful,” she said. “It told me that we should be more grateful for what we have and we don’t realize how good we have it here.”

Playing against two different groups of girls during the trip was a lot of fun for Martin and company. It was grassroots baseball at its best with so many girls on both sides fairly new to the game, but Martin was impressed with how well everybody embraced a chance to play the game with nobody concerned about the language barrier or differences in the way lives are lived.

What really stands out as a highlight was the game played in Marti. Once word spread that a bunch of Canadian girls were in town to play some baseball a civic holiday was declared and all schools and businesses were closed for the day.

“The stands were absolutely full. The whole entire town was there to watch,” Martin said.

It was exciting, yet very nerve-racking for all hands because they didn’t expect to create such a buzz among the local people.

“I remember my friend Kimberly Carey was first up to bat and she was shaking she was so nervous,” she said.

Claire Butt, a 15-year-old pitcher who had the pleasure of being picked to play for a Nova Scotia team that participated in the tour last year, was on board for this year’s trip and she had an even better time because she got to share it with some of her teammates and good friends.

She enjoyed playing the game and got caught up in all the hype on the diamond, but she really enjoyed being able to go back and visit some of the students she had met one year ago when she brought them school supplies.

“Getting to see all the kids and how grateful they were to receive school supplies and things like that,” Butt said. “I got to go to the same school again so it was nice to see some of the same people who were there last year.”

Martin has only been playing baseball for a year, but she has no doubt she will be spending her time on the diamond during the summer months. She just had an experience she won’t forget anytime soon and recommends the experience to anybody who ever gets an opportunity to do what she just did.

“Of course, absolutely. You will not regret it,” she said.

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