Oakland youth league says Cuban baseball game bridges political divide

HAVANA, Cuba (KGO) -- The president's attendance at an exhibition game between Tampa Bay and the Cuban national team on Tuesday was especially important for one group in Oakland.

It's the first time this century that an American Major League team has played baseball in Cuba - and with an American president in the front row, nonetheless.

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"In the words of, who was it, Sam Cook? It's been a long time coming," Oakland Royals coach Roscoe Bryant said.

Bryant knows there's a lot that separate the U.S. and Cuba, but in baseball, there's common ground.

"It's like one big brotherhood. The Cubans are very passionate about their baseball. We here in the Bay Area are very passionate about ours," he said.

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That's why Bryant's youth team, the Oakland Royals, became the subject of a documentary when they got special permission to travel to Cuba and play baseball with the talented young teams there.

"Home run, in Cuban, you know Spanish speaking, is 'hom ron.' Pitcher is 'peetcher,'" "Ghost Town to Havana" director Eugene Corr said.

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They may borrow the terms, but the talent is entirely their own.

"I mean, they were pretty damn good. They were pretty special in what they did," Oakland Royals player Rontral Arcement said.

The end of trade restrictions will mean big changes in Cuba, changes to the culture and the economy. The Oakland Royals hope kids' baseball doesn't get swept up in those changes.

Coaching kids in Cuba doesn't pay very well. The tourism industry just might.

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"How are you going to keep a coach like Nicholas coaching for $14 a month when a doorman can make $200 a week?" Corr asked.

The Royals hope the love of the game keeps Havana's youth teams going, and they can't wait to play them again - maybe here in Oakland.

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