Logan Wilson was eagerly anticipating his first journey to baseball-mad Cuba. But the Gold River teen, a member of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, got much more than he bargained for during his recent journey to the Caribbean island nation.
Wilson, 16, was one of 10 British Columbia players who travelled to Cuba with their families. The club played just two games while there. But team members and their families also had plenty of opportunities to learn about Cuban culture and do some sightseeing.
“It was eye-opening, completing different than what I was expecting,” said Wilson, a Grade 11 student at Gold River Secondary School.
Wilson and his teammates and their families left B.C. on May 7 and returned home on May 18.
“It was eye-opening because the people there were so nice,” Wilson said. “People with so little to give would share their food with you. They already had their food rationed by the government and they would share it with us. The people there were even nicer than most of the people I know here at home.”
Wilson, a pitcher who also plays third base or catcher for the Tyees, travelled to Cuba with his parents Barbara and Dale and his 20-year-old sister Darian. The trip cost about $1,200 per person. That included flights as well as accommodations and meals at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero.
The Cuban trip for Wilson and his teammates was actually the second leg of an exchange visit.
A Cuban squad had visited Vancouver Island last July and played various games against local teams. Wilson was part of the Campbell River Tyees’ Midget club that hosted one of those matches in Courtenay.
The Tyees were invited to return the favour by visiting Cuba this year. Ten of the 12 players on the Tyees’ roster were able to make the recent journey.
“I knew it was a communist country,” Wilson said. “I expected it to be more modern though. It was all older houses and they were run down.”
Wilson added he thought the capital city of Havana would be a tad more modernized than other parts of the country. But he didn’t find that to be the case. He was somewhat surprised to find out cars from the 1960s were the norm, even in Havana.
The B.C. entourage travelled with about 90 additional suitcases or bags that they left behind in Cuba. Since those goods were considered humanitarian aid, WestJet Airlines had agreed to waive all fees to transport the extra baggage.
Wilson said goods left behind included clothes as well as baseball and hockey equipment.
“It was all stuff at home we had gone through and we didn’t need,” he said. “The donations were from all of the families that went down.”
The sports gear left behind included a pair of hockey nets and a number of hockey sticks.
The Tyees ended up playing two baseball games, both in the town of Union de Reyes. The club lost its first match 4-0 but won its second contest 3-1.
After the second outing the Tyees introduced their Cuban counterparts to the sport of road hockey.
“Baseball is their sport down there,” Wilson said. “We had to teach them how to play (road hockey). But they were able to pick it up pretty quickly.”
Wilson is hoping his new Cuban friends will continue to play the sport as they left the hockey nets and sticks behind for their use.
Wilson is planning to also be in the Tyees’ lineup for its 2018 season, even though hockey has become more of a love for him recently.
He had originally planned to attend a spring training camp tryout for the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, a Junior B team that competes in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. But tryout dates conflicted with Wilson’s Cuba trip. He is still hoping to crack the Glacier Kings’ roster for the 2018-19 campaign and he has been invited to attend the club’s main training camp in August.
Wilson is also yearning for a return to Cuba at some point.
“I loved it and would definitely go back again,” he said.