Category: Player Blog

Cuba by Avrey

Cuba-Avrey-Alward

My trip to Cuba began as any ordinary vacation with friends and family escaping the cold weather and stress of everyday life. However, it quickly turned into an inspiring experience where I met amazing people, developed friendships I will have for the rest of my life, and changed me as a person. The memories I made in Cuba are ones that will last a lifetime.

When we arrived in Cuba, we took a bus to the beautiful resort where we all relaxed and found our way around so we knew important things like how to get from our rooms to the ice cream machine. The beach was beautiful and we had a lot of fun swimming and playing beach volleyball.

On the second day, we drove in a bus to a small community two hours from our hotel to get the ballfield. On our way, we sang songs and laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. When we arrived at the ballfield, we realized it was the wrong field so we had to drive all the way back to the hotel but we were happy because we had more time to sing and dance. Instead of playing a game that day, we had a practice. We took a horse and buggy to a field just down the street from our hotel where a professional coach and two National players ran our practice. That practice was unique, instead of a regular warm up with a jog and stretching; we used the bats to stretch and played games with the balls. There were horses and pigs grazing in the outfield during our practice! When will I ever have that opportunity again? Never!

The next day we had our first game. We met so many amazing people. The field had a view of mountains and the backstop was made of cacti, which was surprisingly very strong and stopped the ball anytime it went back there. It started to sprinkle for a few minutes, which resulted in a beautiful rainbow over the mountains. It looked like someone had painted a picture and I will never forget it.

Our second game took place the next day and that game was against some amazing players. Most of them played on high-level teams and were 17-30 years old. Playing against those phenomenal players made me a better player. We played all the rest of our games against this team and got to know them. We lost most of the games but even though we lost, it taught me so much about Cuba and the people who live there. Their stories were so inspiring to hear.

Because of this trip, I learned how grateful I am for my life and everyone in it. I also learned how much work I need to put in to be a better player and person.

Cuba 2020 by Brooklyn

Cuba-Trio

Cuba this year has taught, well, all of us as a team, very valuable things. One of the many things include not taking anything for granted. We all have big, beautiful homes with clean running water, where as some of the small communities that we played in, did not have this. We also take for granted, clothing, equipment to play sports, which they do not have. As a result, any little object they reserved that we would use daily like soap would be a treat to them and you can tell how much they appreciated it. They would get so excited; I think we all felt very privileged as we watched them. Everything was different from here, the climate, obviously was a big change, and because it was humid, hot and even when it rained the heat was still unbearable.

Softball, their fields were another huge change. The backstop was a huge plant call field mice, it was a vine looking plant. The locals were telling us to be very careful as there was little thorns and can be dangerous to humans. This was grown around Cuba to keep the mice away. Their fields had no fence and no dugouts. Dugouts were made of wood and logs to sit on, no benches.

It was an experience like no other. Out team, also, grew together like a family, (More so then before, if at all possible) parents included. There was drama, as usual, but less then normal. All of us, danced like there was no tomorrow or like no one was watching. We sang, I got up and sang at karaoke night with Coach Cheryl, unexplainable feeling. Swam as if we were never going to get out and most of all we made memories that we will never forget. EVER!!

There were no groups of individuals or loners, we all stuck together. At the end of the day, I learned that family outside of blood relations is how diverse the world is and just because we do not have the iPhone XR, we are still very lucky to have this family/team called the Blackbears!

Brooklyn Feicht

Cuba by Emma

Cuba-Emma-Cormier

Cuba was a blast. There were so many neat things that we did and encountered. It was also a good wake up call to us for sure. That we have a lot more then them, and we are super fortunate.

First of all, the resort. The girls and I had such a great time there and the workers were the sweetest. The resort always had activities going on, we did our best to join all of them, never failing to having a few laughs. We would always get up on stage and dance our little hearts out whenever the time was right. We even danced with the cutest little kids. Also, the beach was absolutely beautiful. The white sand was so soft and the water was so clear and blue. Although the water was really salty and i couldn’t go swimming in it because of my really sensitive skin. (learned that the hard way.) On the beach there was a volley ball net and we spent a lot of our time there, even if we weren’t the best at it. Eventually we had made new friends and they started to play with us as well. Plus, me and Jillian’s favourite part, the food and drinks. At the start of the week i was skeptical about the food and if it was normal, turns out it wasn’t actually bad at all. But i know for sure the stir-fry was the best.. Amy would agree. Some of us definitely added on a few pounds with all the food we stuffed our self with at super. Don’t get me started on the little bars either. We would shove lemonades down our throat. They were amazing and super refreshing. Or even the Mickey mouses. Sometimes the bartenders would think we were older then we were and tried to give us more adult drinks or even flirt on us. But i’m pretty sure the dads made sure they knew we were young.

Secondly, the best part, softball. The first day we played the girls were so nice. It was a lot of fun helping out the girls and showing them how to bat. The weather wasn’t terrible, it was a little windy. The second game was definitely a completely different ball game. It was a much faster game. It was super fun. The third game wasn’t the best for me because i was extremely dehydrated and had to sit out. The people who were watching the game were super worried about me but i was fine. It was Definitely a wake up call to stay really hydrated in the heat and when I got back to the resort I downed water into body. Also there were little hydration salts, really gross but helped so much. The fourth game was the best. It was scorching hot, but that didn’t stop us from playing. I got to play all game and it was the best. I was so exhausted after. I also got on base twice and hit a super nice grounder right down the middle.

Thirdly, the thing that really impressed me the most was the way the cubans live. They were all so happy with how little they have. The average cuban salary a month is about 20$ the average Canadian salary a month is about 3250$. Thats a huge difference in the quality of life, and most cubans work a lot more hours and a lot harder labor. Also, Dennis had told us that they will wait in line a store for hours just to get food or water, and that only certain things are available on certains days. So there’s no going to a store and getting some eggs, you’ll have to make sure they’re available and wait in a line to get some. Yet i noticed how happy and how loving their culture is. Plus the views are insane! It’s truly a beautiful sight. The community is so strong and so respectful. They have a very strong family life. Plus their fruit is sooooo delicious! Especially the little bananas.

Cuba was such a great time and our team bonded so well. Also the parents bonded so much. The experience was incredible and even if everything didn’t go how it was planned, we made it even better then it could’ve ever gone. I’m so grateful for going on that trip and getting a culture shock. If i could i would’ve stayed another week. I still keep in contact with some of the other girls on facebook and messenger. I miss it so much and can’t wait for our next adventure.

2020 Canada Cuba Goodwill Tour

Cuba-Hayley-Verner

I'm very thankful I got to go to Cuba to play the sport I love but also represent my country.  It was an amazing experience.

The people are absolute sweethearts, they are truly friendly and amazing.  It was so cool that all these people came to watch.  It was so fun to play with a cacti backstop, amazing opponents, seeing people smile, and just having fun.  The bus ride to our games was great; we sang, danced and made a bigger bond.

But also my favourite part was seeing the cultural difference, not only that but giving things to the children who were in need but also the adults.  I will never forget their smiling faces.

The place we stayed was really great, going on stage with many people enjoying ourselves.  The pools were good but so was our tanning competition at the beach seeing how burnt everyone got.  Especially Avrey but also Jill trying to get tanned.

It was definitely the time of my life and I think coach Rob for everything.  But also my family for taking me and lastly I thank my teammates for a great experience.

My Cuban Trip Experience

Cuba-Jillian-Hayward

I know that my team has worked for over a year preparing for this Cuban trip, raising money for flights and equipment at the market, which in my opinion was extremely boring but when the time finally came to go to Cuba, it was the best experience of my life. A time I will never forget, a time to bond with my teammates I know I will have a lifelong friendship with. A time to learn about different cultures and a time to be grateful for what we have back at home. I learned that happiness can’t be bought and giving gives you a feeling that can’t be bought either. One of the memories that remains in my head from this trip is one game we were losing and Dennis asked us if we wanted to stop the game or go another inning? We chose to stop because we were so excited to give stuff to the little kids that were so happy to watch us play. I will also remember the amount of smiles it put on their faces and even more, the smiles it put on us. I also remember sitting one inning and watching two little boys, not even 5 years old, carrying a box on top of their heads and I asked “ what were they doing ” ? They were working by carrying beer bottles for their family to earn some extra cash. Even the thought of this shocks you, I can’t imagine working at 10 years old let alone 5. This makes you think again about the lifestyle we have and how I’m thankful and appreciative for the life I have received!

Canada Cuba Goodwill Tour 2020

Cuba-Olivia-Barrett

The recent softball trip to Cuba was truly a changing experience for me.  It opened my eyes and made really think about how fortunate I am for all my opportunities.

The first day we got on the bus at around eight in the morning to go play a game in a village called Tacajo.  Although the other team didn't show up, the organizer for the Goodwill Tour Dennis held a practice just five minutes away from the resort with the former national team coach.  We rode in horse and buggies to the practice.  The field was in poor condition; however, we learned how the Cuban girls practice and how important communication is on the field.

The next afternoon, we played our first game in an even smaller village closer to our resort.  My first impression was that it was breathtaking.  Mountains in the background, a cacti backstop and dugouts made from grass and logs.  The whole village came to watch our four games here.  The first game was an easier game with some kids our age.  The next three games were a bit more intense, playing against former national team players.  Against this national team group, we lost the first game and third game, but we tied the second game that eventually ended in a loss in extra innings.  Altogether this was my favorite softball moment ever.  Before the final game of the week, we went to a mountain with a view of the city of Holguin.  Here were stairs that the national coach had talked to us about.  There was over 400 steps and the national team would run them all the time for practice.  Most of our team did them and we all were exhausted at the end.  After our last game, our Canadian team gave the Cuban players our cleats, helmets, and other softball equipment.  Our team and families also donated more softball equipment to the players and school supplies to the children in the village we were playing in.  It meant a lot to do that because it isn't easy for them to get equipment like we can here in Canada.  They seemed to truly appreciate our gesture.

Later that night, we had a huge dinner at the resort with two of the Cuban National team players: Geidys and Yumey, one of their dads and Dennis.  Coach Rob, Dennis and both girls all did very touching speeches.  After dinner, we danced on stage a bit and taught the girls how to do tiktok dances.  Before they left, we all jumped in the pool with our clothes on and danced on the beach.  It was one of my favorite nights at the resort.

The day we left was very sad, we really learned a lot in such a short period of time, and I will never take anything for granted from now on.

Cuba 2020 by Taylor

Cuba-Taylor-Case

I have never been to a place like Cuba until March of 2020.  March of 2020 changed me as a person and how I see things like houses and things we have.  Compared to Cuba we have so much and I feel bad for the people that live in Cuba because they don't have as much.

Getting to the hotel and getting to see all the girls was already so fun.  Just seeing everyone's excitement was so cool.  Getting the uniforms and trying them on was another great experience.  The next day when we got to the airport was so much fun! Even thought it felt like forever waiting for the plane, it was so fun.  The plane ride there sitting beside Lauren was fun we both slept most of the way so when we woke up, we were very excited.  Once we got to Cuba and landed, I could tell everyone was trying not to flip out.

Getting on the bus and making the videos and taking photos was so fun!  We got to have fun but, we will always be able to look back at them.  Once I got to the resort, I got to look around and also think about Cuba.  I got to see all the palm trees, which I loved but I also thought about the houses I saw and this resort compared to ours.  Which I thought was very sad that we have so much, I just want to take some of our stuff and give it to them.

Once we all got settled in an went to the pools and ocean, I was amazed on how beautiful Cuba is.  I've never seen a place as nice as Cuba.  I loved hanging with the girls and talking to the parents.  I feel that I was close to these girls but we got so much closer and I love that.

Being able to wake up and hang with the girls but then putting on a Canada uniform and going out and seeing people's faces reading our jersey and saying "Good Luck Canada!" was so cool.  But then going to play ball was so fun.  Having a cactus backstop that's something I've never heard of but got to use was cool.  Playing and practicing with past national players and coaches was an experience.

My favorite part of the whole trip was being with the girls.  Now even if there was drama it was still fun being with them.  I would 100% do it again!

Thank you Rob, parents and girls!

Cuba 2020 by Lauren

Cuba-Lauren-Moore

The past 2020 Cuba trip was whirlwind in a way. The ups and downs but the many laughs we had. The jokes and memories we have created and the forever bond we will have with the fellow Cuban team. The Cuba Goodwill tour is about giving the chance for us Canadians to play softball against another country and seeing how there lives are so different then ours and that is what really has changed me this trip.

The first day we "played" we got to explore the city of Hologuin. The beautiful mountains were amazing to see but the thing that caught everyone's eye was how people lived. The houses were small and old looking they had big, bold, bright, colors which is not something you would see everyday here. Inside the houses were well kept and clean. The different style of living was drastically different then what we live like here. The hard working, kind, souls always kept a positive attitude and a amazing out look on life when they are in the toughest times.

The next thing that had a big impact on me was the amount of effort put in by the Cuban National team to get where they are right now. We complain about putting in a little extra work when catching a couple more ground balls but they catch and throw up to 1000 softballs a day. The substantial drive in there heads is crazy and seeing how much they want it. I loved how much they would joke around with there teammates and there loving bond for one another. There throwing was precise and the way it perfectly and gracefully slipped off there fingers and hit there target was crazy. Thats what happens when you practice non-stop. We then were treated like one of the National team players by having the choice to climb the 426 stairs. At first I wasn't gonna do it, but then Brooklyn and i were motivated to climb them. It was like the ripple affect once one person started we all had to join in. Once i got back up to the top my knees felt like they were gonna collapse.The National team players were put threw hard core training going up then down that everyday to build up there strength and help with practicing breathing when put threw hard training (sometimes they would have to do it twice.)

The community we played in was small but there was so many little kids. Some children would walk 5km to come watch us play. They couldn't afford shoes to put on there feet so we graciously donated shoes, clothing, and school supplies to them. They were like Piranhas trying to collect the stuff.

This trip showed me how lucky and fortunate I am and that i should respect every little thing i have. It really put in perspective how lucky we are to have the government we have, the food we have, the ball gear we have, the clothes and essentials we have, and most of all the team mates and family we have.

Cuba 2020 by Gwen

Cuba-Gwen-Moore

March break of this year my softball team and I traveled to Cuba to play softball. Never in my life would I have thought I was going to go travel somewhere tropical and play a few games of softball. This trip didn’t just teach me more about the game of softball, it taught me about the important things in life and to be grateful for the things I have.

The night before we left, I could barely sleep. I would wake up every hour checking the time to see how much longer it was going to be until we got up. Finally, it was around 3:00am in the morning and we packed up our things and walked down to the airport, which was attached to the hotel where we were staying. When we got to the airport, we checked our bags, got our boarding tickets and went through security to get to our gate. We waited at least an hour to get on our plane which wasn’t that bad because we got to meet up with the rest of our ball team, took a team picture and waited ‘patiently’.

When we landed in Holguin Cuba, we deboared onto the tarmac which I’ve never done before so I thought that was cool. Once we got our bags and headed out to find our bus, out of no where this man starts talking to me like we’ve talked before and said ‘thank god your wearing your Canada jersey or I would’ve never known where to look’. Meanwhile, I’m standing there thinking in mind head, I’m sorry but I do not know who you are. ‘Hi I’m Dennis’ he said. Dennis was definitely a bump in the road for all of us but I am thankful that he made this happen. He guided us to the bus and when everyone was on board we went to our resort. Some of the things we saw on our way to the resort were interesting but also sad.

After we settled in at our resort and had the rest of the day to relax and chill and do whatever we wanted. One of the memorable things about this trip was how we didn’t have the use of our cell phones for most of the trip. This meant we had to adapt and learn to communicate differently than what we are used to. The time we had at the resort was unbelievably amazing the memories we made there are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

The days at the field were incredible! There were lots of people cheering for both teams. I will never forget about the cactus backstop and the squealing pig. The team we played only had one helmet and one bat so at the end of our 5th game we gave them our helmets, cleats, pants, a few bats and whatever we didn’t need. I will definitely miss the girls from that team and hope to see them in my future.

I’m really thankful to my parents and coaches who made this happen too. I will never ever forget about this trip with amazing people.

Thank you Coach Rob for all the work that you put into making this trip happen. Hopefully it will be the first of many that the Blackbears will experience!

Gwen Moore
#13

Cuba Trip with the Black Bears

Cuba-Amy-Mackenzie

This March break, I got to experience a one in a lifetime trip with my best friends. We got to go to Guardalavaca, Cuba and it was amazing to see. The difference of lifestyle was crazy and most people didn’t have much to live with being lucky to even have a house. Nature, the people there and the weather were only a few things that were memorable in Cuba. However, the best memories were made with my team. From jumping in the pool to singing in front of a crowd, it felt like I was in a dream or a movie. I don’t know what I would do without these awesome girls and I’m so thankful to have been able to go on this trip.

Even though this vacation didn’t go exactly as planned, I still had a whole lot of fun and loved every second I was there. We played the sport we loved and there were a lot of locals who came to support. One girl was even celebrating her birthday so we made her a card and gave her a few things. The softball was incredible and the players were spectacular. I never thought that I would ever be playing against 30 year olds but there we were, and might I add, we killed it. Also, they were extremely nice and some of the girls actually came to our resort where we danced and swam (even though we weren’t allowed 🙂 ). After all of our games, the team and I brought extra gear for them and I got a signed shirt from one of the girls on the team. One thing that I can say is I got to pitch in Cuba and as a beginner pitcher; it was a great experience to have.

At the resort, the girls and I did a lot of things. For example, we played beach volleyball numerous times and swam together at the beach. I even think some of the girls overcame their fears of swimming in the ocean or got more scared because of some fish. In addition, we may or may not have embarrassed ourselves on the stage but I must say our team has some moves and so do the parents (Kerry should have won the competition 🙂 ). The girls also went crazy on the lemonades. Personally I didn’t think they were that good but some had so many we thought they were a little drunk. Later on in the trip, we took the bus to Holguin and went to the place where the national coach trained his team. With a total of 840 stairs up and down, many people tackled the challenge of walking those steps including me. My quads will never be the same after that walk. They were very sore but I can say that I did it and I’m proud of that.

To conclude, this trip changed my life and I’m so glad and grateful I got to experience it.