A baseball trade: one ball for one stone

As I watched the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban national team in Havana today on television, I couldn't help wonder if one or more of these youngsters was playing for the Cubans this afternoon.

As I watched the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban national team in Havana today on television, I couldn’t help wonder if one or more of these youngsters was playing for the Cubans this afternoon.

The boys and the field were mostly a blur, when Arnold shouted at our driver to stop the van.From the side of the road on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba we watched the sandlot baseball game in progress with seven young players sharing two mitts, one well chipped bat and – a stone?

It didn’t take long before we looked at one another in disbelief and simultaneously spoke, “they don’t have a ball.” Our astonished looks quickly turned to smiles, because we had a ball. In fact, we had three baseballs. We never packed for Cuba without fitting a couple of cowhide-wrapped orbs between bottles of ibuprofen, vitamins, toothpaste, reading glasses and countless other necessities we take for granted.

Arnold bent over the seat and rummaged through one of the duffel bags for a baseball. Finding one, he rapidly peeled the shrink wrap, called out and tossed the prize toward the group of seven.

Fourteen little hands bolted upward in an attempt to catch the shiny white prize dropping from the sky. The boy in the yellow shirt snagged the flying ball and the group fell silent as they gathered close to admire the treasure cradled in their buddy’s hands. Before long the new ball was passed around where it was handled fastball style by one budding pitcher while another imitated a three-finger changeup grip.

The little men looked up, smiled and shouted their appreciation before ditching the stone and resuming their game. Three days later on our return journey from Pinar del Rio we passed the field again and the seven were still there sharing a still-white baseball.

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