USA and Cuba to renew CNT series
Five-game set in Cuba to take place July 5-9, 2012
The two international baseball powers made the announcement at a press conference at the legendary Latin American Stadium in downtown Havana. The Cuban delegation was represented by International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Vice President Antonio Castro and CBF President Higinio Velez. Paul Seiler, executive director/CEO and Eric Campbell, National Teams general manager, were on hand for USA Baseball. Seiler -- also a member of the IBAF Executive Committee -- and Velez signed a letter of intent immediately preceding the press conference outlining plans for the series.
"We are honored and humbled to represent USA Baseball as part of the renewed friendship series between the United States and Cuba," said Seiler. "Both countries share a rich history of baseball and competition, and we look forward to continuing this series for the foreseeable future."
"This is a dream come true," Castro said. "We have been thinking about this for a long time. It will be positive for the players and fans in Cuba, and we look forward to going to the United States next year."
While Cuba and the U.S. have long shared a competitive, international rivalry across all of its age groups and tournaments worldwide -- the countries are currently Nos. 1 and 2 in the IBAF world rankings, respectively -- they have not competed consistently in a home-and-away series at the collegiate level in 16 years. In 1996, Cuba won a five-game series against the United States, 3-2, as part of a tour played in Minor League ballparks across four southern U.S. states. USA Baseball last sent a collegiate team to Cuba as part of the series in 1993, where it won one of three games in Sancti Spiritus.
"I could not be more excited for our players and for our collegiate program as a whole," said Campbell. "This series will be one of the highlights of our schedule each summer."
"These games are of great importance to our federation," Velez said. "It is going to contribute to the development of players in our country, and it will be an opportunity for the athletes and audience to view the development of baseball in Cuba and the United States."
All five games would tentatively be played in Latin American Stadium, and game times have not yet been determined. Following the series, the U.S. and Cuba will travel to the Netherlands for Honkbal Week in Haarlem, set for July 13-22.
USA Baseball records show that the U.S. and Cuba's National Teams (U.S. professional teams did not begin competition until 1999) competed consistently each year from 1987-1996, with various friendship games played as early as the late 1970s. The series is among those with the richest history for USA Baseball, with its collegiate All-Star games against Japan serving as the longest-running friendship series, having just completed its 38th installment in 2011.
The 2012 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will be led by Tennessee skipper Dave Serrano. Players will be invited over the course of the college baseball season, and the final 22-man roster will be announced on a rolling basis on USABaseball.com as players accept invitations. The team will first gather in Cary, N.C., for training on June 23.