Claire Butt has a passion for baseball. She excels in the classroom. She understands the importance of being involved in her community.
These were just the qualities Dennis Woodworth was looking for when his search for young ambassadors to be a part of the second Canada-Cuba Goodwill Tour.
Butt, a 13-year-old Pasadena native who just finished up her first year of baseball with the Pasadena Pirates U13 female baseball team, is one of 17 girls named to the 13U girls team making the journey Matanzas, Cuba for a week in February.
A total of nine teams, including two female teams, will participate in this year’s 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. Teams travelling to Matanzas will play games, participate in clinics, but the big focus is on bringing along some new and used equipment to help improve the quality of baseball for the less fortunate in Cuba. It also includes making life easier on the academic side as Butt and fellow participants will be bringing along school supplies to deliver to schools in the area.
Players selected to be ambassadors of the game go through a screening process where the quality of the person is as important as the skill set of the person. It appears the girl with the pony tails proved to be exactly the type of individual these missions hope to have on board.
“Claire is a breath of fresh air,” Woodworth said of the only female from Newfoundland embarking on the journey.
Woodworth knows the players heading to Matanzas are in for a real treat. It is a great trip for them to be spending a week in a resort, while spending their time with children and families who could only dream of the kind of lifestyle most participants enjoy. He feels Butt and the other 250 players heading down there will discover a better appreciation of what they have at home once they see what these young Cubans deal with on a daily basis.
Furthermore, he said, his wish is that some of the players get motivated to do even bigger and better humanitarian work because of this introduction at a fairly young age.
“We want them to bring something back that changes their lives. That moves them to be somebody who can make an impact in their community when they get home,” he said.
Soon to be a holder of a back belt in taekwondo, Butt is active in her church doing her part whenever a need arises. Her pleasant personality was recognized with her being named the Most Spirited Player at the provincial Under-13 female baseball championship in Upper Gullies this past summer.
She’s eager to do whatever she can to make a difference, whether it’s helping out in her community or spreading her passion for baseball.
She has to carry out several fund-raising ventures to not only cover her expenses, but make sure she also plays a part in helping collect lots of new equipment for the girls she will be playing against when she goes away. It’s something she is anxious to do because she can only imagine the look on the faces of those who will be benefitting from the experience.
“That makes me very happy inside because I know they don’t have a lot of equipment down there,” she said. “They have a mat for a base and a stick for a bat, so I know they’re going to be excited when they get the new equipment.”
What’s really neat is two passions have been meshed together in what is expected to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any teenager.
“I’ve always dreamt of going on one of these goodwill trips so this is a very, very big deal to me,” she said.
No doubt, doing so with her baseball in hand , it doesn’t get much better or the daughter of Pasadena’s Gord Butt and Yvonne Stone.
One can only imagine the big smile when he puts on her commemorative Canadian uniform that she will have for a keepsake forever.