Editor's note: Arundel High baseball coach Bernie Walter recently returned from Cuba, where he coached the U.S. Junior National baseball team at the World Championships. The American team, which consisted of 18 of the best 17- and 18-year-old players from throughout the country, finished third behind Cuba and Taipei with a 6-2 record. The following is the second of three parts of the journal he kept about his experiences in Cuba.
Day 5, Aug. 27
No game today without Nicaragua, as the team didn't show up. We practice west of Havana in a small town called Santiago.
The houses are small, mostly one-story. The people build their own houses from such materials as concrete blocks and poured concrete. With nearly all of the people being unskilled, the quality of workmanship is subpar. Many of the homes have TV antennae.
The baseball field is 4 months old, constructed by townsmen who like baseball. The playing surface is fine. We were surprised to see goats grazing in the outfield; cattle and horses in backyards adjacent to the field. It is brutally hot and humid. We took a short batting practice and the pitchers long-tossed in the rain.
This afternoon we toured old Havana. This section was built by the Spanish in the 18th century. We toured quickly. Our guide is clueless. We saw the most important building in the history of Cuba. It was the residence of the Spanish captains and governors who ruled Cuba. It has an open courtyard with a statue of Columbus.
Over the hill, across the harbor, there is a high statue of Jesus Christ. What a paradox in this atheist communist country.
We stopped by a special store for tourists and embassy personnel. The players went on a spending spree, buying familiar foods and Canadian water. Most also bought cigars. The embassy area is the nicest part of town.
Day 6, Aug. 28
Green eggs and ham again for breakfast. Dr. Seuss must be from here. Our 10:30 tour to Hemingway's house got canceled, because there is no gas for the buses.
The sanitation is getting difficult for all. Yesterday the team chipped in to buy a toilet seat for $12. You must carry it with you to the bathroom. It is propped over the dorm door.
Today, I finally found a mirror to use while shaving.
This afternoon, most of us are resting. This is an important game with Canada (3-0) in our group of five.
Tonight we played in Latins-Americano Stadium before a crowd of about 2,000. Brooks Kieschnick hit a change-up for a home run to get a five-run inning started.
The Canadian pitcher is French-Canadian and acted like Mark Fydrich. He talked to himself in French. Willie Adams struggled for us. Aaron Kreipe and Andy Lorraine relieved. We got the mercy rule when Paul Petrulis singled with the bases loaded in the eighth to win, 16-6.
I found out they turned off the water pump at 1:30. Several of us could not shower.
We had a team meeting about diet. Everyone needs to make all meals, even if they eat a little. A balanced diet is important. Several players are not feeling well (stomach problems and diarrhea).
Day 7, Aug. 29
Green eggs and ham once again for breakfast. This morning we play at Alberto Alveney Stadium. This is an industrial area near the port much like South Baltimore.
The stadium is packed. Over 3,500 people are here to watch the USA-Taipei game.
Center fielder Tony Morrillia got three hits and had two RBI. Brooks Kieschnick and Scott Spiezio each had two hits and two RBI.
We scored three in the first and sixth. We added one in the second, one in the eighth and two in the ninth as we won, 10-4.
Chinese Taipei is a big-time all-star team. Many of these players played in the Williamsport Little League World Series. Most of their hitters are inside-outside swingers. This makes it difficult to strike them out. But Jose Prado (92 mph) fanned 13 and pitched our first complete game.
It was brutally hot. The air is polluted. After the game the bus was brought to home plate, because the crowd was so large, we could have been rushed. The fans are very enthusiastic.
Day 8, Aug. 30
Because of the Middle East situation, gasoline and electricity are problems. Today we went to Varadero Beach. We had a 2 -hour trip with a tour guide. The land is beautiful outside the city.
Varadero is 20 kilometers of white sand and clear water. The players are elated as are the coaches. There are many Germans and Russians here. We are operating out of the International Hotel, which is a first-class hotel.
At last, real food. For lunch we ate a large lobster, baked potato and real green beans for $15.60. This was the first meal that tasted like American food.
On the way back we visited the Pan-Am stadiums, which are under construction. It will be a miracle if all this is finished.
Day 9, Aug. 31
We have a 10:30 a.m. game vs. Mexico. It is very hot and humid.
Mexico threw their ace left-hander. In his first-round game, he struck out 15 in eight innings.
Today we won, 10-0, in seven innings. Mike Schiefelbein got the win (89 mph) by going five innings. Brooks Kieschnick (87 mph) and Andy Lorraine each pitched an inning. Jay Powell hit another line-drive home run. Paul Petrulis stole three bases. In the bottom of the sixth, Tony Fernandez tripled to score two to give us the mercy win.
Before the game, the Cuban ground crew tried to prevent us from taking infield practice. This whole tournament is disorganized.
We stopped by the Diplo Store to buy water. I never thought I'd be so glad to drink water.
Several times we asked to see the museum with Cuba's 10 Most Wanted, which includes several USA presidents. Our tour guide, who is extremely knowledgeable, has heard about it but doesn't know where it is. I think he doesn't want us to see it.
Yesterday, the guide told us several times that "Cuba is at war." Finally I asked, "With whom are you at war?" Somewhat shyly he said, "USA," then quickly added, "politically, economically and financially."
He reports Castro says, "Cubans are at war with the government and not the people of the USA."
But I find this difficult to believe. Many of these Cubans hate Americans.
Morale is very high. Warren Turner has told us if we win five straight in this round he will try to get us out earlier. That is all we hear in the dugout. But I don't think it can happen.
Tonight we'll watch the Cubans play Nicaragua on television. Taipei beat Canada, 6-0. Now we've got to play the two best teams back-to-back.