SE: Bonding Through Baseball

Former Wildcat baseball pitcher Jared Moore at Havana's Estadio Latinoamericano in March 2016. Photo courtesy of Jared Moore.

Before former K-State pitcher Jared Moore boarded the plane for his week-long trip to Cuba on March 4, he didn’t know what to expect. He’d been studying the country and its economy with his MBA classmates at the University of Denver but was unaware of exactly how his group would be received when they touched down in Havana. 

However, it didn’t take long to realize that he and the people of Cuba were more similar than he thought. 

They all love baseball. 

“Everywhere there was a baseball field there were kids playing on it,” said Moore over the phone earlier this week. “So to be able to go down there, talk to some of the people, talk to the kids that were playing and talk about how much they love baseball, it was really awesome because that hits home with me. Sports is a world language that everyone knows, and it was really cool to see that.” 

Moore, one of K-State’s top pitchers from 2011-14, is currently in his final semester at the University of Denver where he will graduate with an MBA with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation this May. His trip to Cuba was a part of a semester-long course studying the country and its economics. 

“It was interesting for me because I thought we were going to be looked at in a different way, but the reality was that the Cubans loved us,” he said. “We got to sit down and talk to a lot of them. We talked to some of the country’s entrepreneurs but also got to talk to people just out on the street. Everyone hangs out outside, so you get a good opportunity to talk and understand more about Cuba, their culture and how the people really like America.” 

While others in his group were fascinated with the politics, the business and the economy, Moore just couldn’t get over the impact baseball has on the Cuban culture. He talked for hours on the topic with numerous Cubans. He brought baseball caps to give out during the trip, and, on one occasion, what he received in return for one of his caps was completely unexpected. 

“We were just outside of the stadium in Havana and this guy came up to me and we started talking about baseball,” explained Moore. “We talked about all these players that have left and how much he would love to have a Major League Baseball team. I brought down a few hats, so I gave him one and it made his day. Then he gave me his hat off his head, an Industriales hat, the team of Havana, and it’s signed by one of their players. It was really cool.” 

Along with the man he met outside the stadium, Moore shared his hats with many others. 

“I gave a Kansas State hat to a little kid,” he continued. “I don’t speak Spanish very well, but one of the guys in our group did, and he explained my role playing in college. Then they started taking pictures with me. That was a lot of fun. 

“To be able to give a little more because of my experience in baseball, I talked about some of the guys I know who are playing professionally, whether it’s Evan Marshall in the Majors or the guys in Minor League Baseball, they were just so fascinated by it all. They so desperately want that freedom to enjoy the game of baseball the way that we can.” 

Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba made the switch from professional baseball league to its current amateur baseball league with teams like the Industriales. The league is nothing like the MLB where players are signing multi-million dollar contracts, but Moore said he thinks one day that may change. 

“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years there was a Major League Baseball team in Havana,” Moore said. “They’re only 90 miles from Florida, and the talent there is unbelievable.” 

The MLB recently played its first exhibition game in nearly two decades in Cuba with the Tampa Bay Rays taking on the Cuban National Team in Havana on March 22. It was a historic event as President Barack Obama, the first U.S. president in 80 years to visit the country, was among the 55,000 people in attendance. 

Though the game took place after Moore returned home from his trip to Cuba, he said he had the opportunity to visit the stadium beforehand.

“There were Major League Baseball crews working on the field getting it ready, but other than that, there wasn’t anyone in the stadium,” explained Moore. “It felt so different than any other baseball stadium I’d ever been in. The entire stadium is light blue, and it just felt electric from the moment I walked in. It was a really cool experience to see what a professional stadium looks like down there.” 

Overall, the trip to Cuba was an eye-opener for Moore. 

“It was truly fascinating to see a country and how it is changing,” he said. “When I was able to go and give some hats away, they thought I was some big time baseball player or something. It was crazy. They were taking pictures with me and wanted my email. They were just super excited that someone from the United States was out there.” 

Moore said in his MBA program he is the only student who is a former student-athlete, and while it has its challenges, he said it also sets him apart because he brings a new, fresh perspective to his class. 

“I know everyone I was there with was just so amazed with the economy, the government, but I just could not get past their passion for baseball,” Moore said. “In our class, we talked about the embargo and what we think is going to happen. I looked at it in terms of what we can agree on, and that’s baseball. It brought a pretty different viewpoint to the whole thing because for so long Cuba’s been so isolated, and in some respect that’s what they still want. But at the same time, you see the influence of Major League Baseball in Cuba and how much these people love the game and the players that have descended from Cuba to the U.S. They love those guys and they want it to be open so that more players can go play Major League Baseball.” 

While it is unknown just what the next step for Cuban baseball will be, Moore is glad he had the unique opportunity to visit the country, get to know the people and learn more about the Cuban culture.

All photos are of Havana, Cuba, courtesy of Jared Moore

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