Cuba Little League

For the first time ever, Cuba has reached the Little League World Series since its conception in 1947.

On Wednesday, the team will face Japan for the first game and play their way into history becoming the first Cuban team (Bayamo Little League) to qualify for the tournament.

“We are very proud to be here representing Cuba,” manager Vladimir Vargas said via the Associated Press through a translator. “We have many teams that want to be here, and we are the ones. It is an awesome thing for us.”

Bayamo Little League beat Habana del Este Little League 6-2 back in March to continue their journey. A campaign that wasn’t an easy one by any means.

In an effort to create more opportunities for children in the Little League Baseball World Series in 2019, the league administered an expansion to add two additional international teams to participate. It was put on pause due to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but ultimately was introduced.

Additionally, according to the AP, Little League overall expanded from 16 to 20 teams last year adding Cuba, Panama, and Puerto Rico, “in a rotation where each region gets an automatic berth for a team in the tournament two out of every three years.”

Cuba missed the tournament in 2022 after losing in the semifinals. Things have since changed, of course.

The team arrived at Penn College for the Little League World Series picnic in Williamsport, Pa., Monday, draped in the Cuban colors and flag.

There’s also an MLB tie, as Miami Marlins first baseman Yuli Gurriel and Arizona Diamondbacks left-fielder Lourdes Gurriel are related to one of the players on the team.

Luis Gurriel Jr., No. 14 on the Cuba Region Team is the cousin of the two MLB players.

“It’s something big because it’s the first time a team from Cuba is participating in the Little League World Series,” Yuli Gurriel told USA Today Sports. “It’s a big step forward. In the past, nobody would have thought this would happen, and thank God it did and with the presence of my cousin, it’s something very beautiful.

[USA Today Sports]
[Associated Press]

About Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jess is a baseball fan with Reno, Nev. roots residing in the Bay Area. She is the host of "Short and to the Point" and is also a broadcaster with the Oakland A's Radio Network. She previously worked for and NBC Sports Bay Area.