Union de Reyes faces the Cowichan Valley Mustangs during their visit to Vancouver Island in 2018. (Citizen file)

Union de Reyes faces the Cowichan Valley Mustangs during their visit to Vancouver Island in 2018. (Citizen file)

Cuban ball team returns to Cowichan

This year’s trip includes international tourney in Grand Forks

The Cowichan Valley’s baseball exchange with Unión de Reyes, Cuba continues.

The Cuban/Vancouver Island Baseball Journey Society is once again bringing a team from Unión de Reyes to British Columbia, extending a relationship that dates back to 2015. It started with a donation of baseball gear organized by Chemainus resident Rob Dyke, and has since seen teams travel back and forth from the two distant islands.

This year’s Cuban team is a little older than the groups who have visited in years past.

“They’re out for blood,” laughed Rick Shay, who is organizing the tour along with Dyke. “They’re not going to lose… not that they lost anyway.”

While they’re in Canada, the Cubans will in the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament, where they will face top competition from B.C., Alaska, Washington state, Texas, Nevada and California.

“There will be some really high-calibre ball. That’s why they brought this team this time around.”

Local competition includes senior premier, men’s, collegiate summer ball, and midget teams. The tour will start with a double-header against the Port Angeles Lefties and Victoria HarbourCats at Royal Athletic Park this Sunday. The first game in the Cowichan Valley takes place on Tuesday, June 4 at Evans Park when Unión de Reyes takes on the Nanaimo Pirates at 6:30 p.m.

Unión de Reyes is a town of about 40,000 residents in western Cuba, away from the popular vacation destinations on the island.

“It’s a poor town,” Shay said. “They don’t get any tourists at all. It’s a big deal for them to leave the country.”

A Cuban team visited the Valley last summer, and two Island teams travelled to Cuba as well: one from the Cowichan Valley and one from Campbell River. Plans are in the works to send another team of midget-age and older players next March.

For up-to-date details about the tour, visit the Cuban/ Vancouver Island Baseball Journey Society on Facebook.

Cuban/Vancouver Island Baseball Journey Society Schedule for 2019

June 2 at Royal Athletic Park (Victoria)

vs. Port Angeles Lefties at 1 p.m.

vs. Victoria HarbourCats at 6:35 p.m.

June 4 at Evans Park (Duncan)

vs. Nanaimo Pirates at 6:30 p.m.

June 9 at Centennial Park (Lake Cowichan)

vs. Chemainus Brewers at 10 a.m.

June 10 at Royal Athletic Park (Victoria)

vs. Victoria HarbourCats at 6:35 p.m.

June 12 at Evans Park (Duncan)

vs. Duncan Mustangs at 6:30 p.m.

June 14 at Serauxmen Field (Nanaimo)

vs. Nanaimo Pirates at 6 p.m.

June 15 at Dogwood Park (Ladysmith)

vs. Ladysmith Pilots at 1:30 p.m.

June 17 at Evans Park (Duncan)

vs. Ladysmith Pilots at 6:30 p.m.

June 18 at Evans Park (Duncan)

vs. Chemainus Brewers at 6:30 p.m.

June 22 to July 1 at Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament

July 5 at Evans Park (Duncan)

vs. Duncan House at 6:30 p.m.

July 6 at Evans Park (Duncan)

vs. Ladysmith Pilots at 6:30 p.m.