Spartiecat, Ottawa Sports Network
March 3, 11:30 AM
Even though the city is fresh off its latest winter storm, the big news is baseball. The Cuban National team is coming to town in June to take on our own Ottawa Champions.
The Champions really could not have lucked out any better than they did with the timing of this announcement. This press conference itself has been in the planning for weeks. What gave it a special significance was Tuesday’s major league tie-in announcement that the Cubans would host the Tampa Bay Rays in Havana, which coincides with the first US Presidential visit to the island since 1928.
Cuba brings with them a formidable reputation as an international squad. #3 ranked in the world, with 3 Olympic Gold medals, 25 Baseball World Cup titles, 12 Pan-Am Gold medals, and a World Baseball Classic silver medal.
The Cubans are no stranger to the Can-Am League either. Yunieski Gourriel and Alexei Bell have spent a number of years playing for the Quebec Capitales. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pointed out that Cuban baseball is not a total stranger to Ottawa. Havana joined the Triple-A International League in the Ottawa Athletics final year in 1954. The Cubans were in the Toronto-area last summer, where they won the Bronze medal at the Pan-Am Games.
During the Champions announcement there were a few mentions of the Tampa Bay-Cuba series. Julio Garmendia Pena, the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, said that this tour marks an important point in Cuban-Canadian relations. It has been 70 years since the two nations entered in formal diplomatic relations.
Cuba has made its name regionally and internationally with sports. Baseball has been effective as tool of diplomacy by many countries in the Caribbean, going back more than a century.
It is a big ticket opportunity coup for the Champions to host the Cubans for Father’s Day weekend. Mayor Watson and Champions President David Gourlay hinted that groups in Ottawa’s Latin community are preparing celebrations around the Cuban series. It highlights a busy June for the Can-Am League, with the Shikoku Island All-Stars will be touring the league in June along with the Cubans.
The Cubans will start their tour in Canada while the Shikoku Island All-Stars play the American clubs, and vice-versa. The Cubans play in Ottawa June 15-17, and the Shikoku Island All-Stars will play in Ottawa June 28-30.
Note: Single game tickets are now on sale for all Ottawa Champions games on their homepage.