Cuban Little League Baseball is making history with its first appearance in the Little League Baseball World Series this year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The team from Bayamo, Cuba qualified for direct entry after winning the Cuban tournament. The effort was made possible by the expansion of the Little League Baseball World Series announced in 2019.
Previously, Cuba participated in the series in 2019 but lost in the semifinals. The country could not participate in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic. After rejoining the Caribbean Region tournament in 2022, the Cuban team again lost in the semifinals.
This year, however, the excitement about the team making it to Williamsport is palpable across the region.
“Since establishing our partnership with the Cuban Baseball Federation four years ago, we have continued to find ways to provide memorable experiences to children in 180 municipal communities all across the country, and we applaud Bayamo Little League on becoming Cuba’s first national champion with direct entry to the World Series,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball, in a statement back in March. “We look forward to working with U.S. government authorities, our league volunteers, and Cuban officials to help bring the team to Williamsport and to be able to experience the memories, excitement, and joy that the World Series provides to children from all over the world each summer.”
Little League Dreams, a new documentary by Havana-based media organization Belly of the Beast showcases the young players and their individual journeys, providing much-needed context for the excitement and meaning that is little understood in the United States. The commitment and perseverance of the Cuban players are representative of the daily struggles of the Cuban people themselves—hence, the significance for Cubans all over the world is about more than representation.
Co-directed by Daniel Montero and Frank Rojazz —winners of the One World Media Award and the Telly Award for their work in the acclaimed documentary series, The War on Cuba— Little League Dreams delves into the reality in Cuba as the children struggle through many difficulties, including extensive travel and family separation.
“Little League Dreams profiles the inspiring stories of Cuba’s top little leaguers as they prepare for the biggest adventure of their young lives,” reads a statement from Belly of the Beast. “These kids must overcome family hardships in the midst of a crushing economic crisis while they shoulder the weight of their families’ —and their country’s— expectations.”
“After a number of years where things have been really hard here and everything coming from the U.S. towards the Cuban people —you know, the sanctions, Trump reversing Obama’s steps toward reconciliation with Cuba and Biden keeping them all in place— it just feels good to see an alternative to that,” said Montero. “Sports and the arts can offer an alternative, a better example of relations between two countries. It’s essential things like this happen and that the Little League team for Cuba can represent us there at Williamsport.”
“I think it’s just great that we have kids at the top levels of baseball, just like it’s great to have Cuban players in the majors,” Montero added. “Hopefully it will be in a different way but it feels good that Cuban players can represent us in the United States. That means a lot to me in particular and to a lot of Cubans as well.”
The Little League Baseball World Series will be held from August 16 to August 27 and will air on ESPN.