The Rice University baseball team will visit Cuba Nov. 23-Dec. 4 to play exhibition games against teams from the Cuban Baseball Federation. During the trip, players and other Rice students will complete a fall-semester credit-bearing class on trends in contemporary Cuba and will experience Cuban culture.
“Our baseball team’s trip to Cuba this fall is a terrific complement to the players’ Rice education,” said Rice Athletics Director Joe Karlgaard. “Student-athlete time demands are such that study-abroad opportunities are rare. I’m grateful to the Rice faculty and administration who worked out the logistics to make this trip a reality.”
“This will be quite an experience for our players and coaches, because baseball is Cuba’s national sport,” said Wayne Graham, Rice head baseball coach. “Cubans are some of the most knowledgeable and appreciative baseball fans in the world. I know this because my very first game at the AAA level was in Havana when I played for Buffalo in the International League. I am looking forward to going back, but I am even more excited about the entire cultural experience our players will have. They are student-athletes, and this is a one-of-a-kind trip for them to take in their young lives. It’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone.”
A complete schedule of the games to be played and itinerary of events will be announced later this summer, but initial plans call for the students to hold class at the University of Havana and other locations and to attend cultural events in Old Havana, El Vedado and Varadero. They will also tour the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Revolution. The team is also in the process of organizing a youth baseball clinic in Matanzas.
“Our student-athletes are in many ways ambassadors of the university, and I am pleased that Rice will begin its direct relationship with Cuba in this way now that diplomatic relations have been restored,” said Rice University President David Leebron. “Our athletes have many demands on their time, which can make it difficult for them to have international experiences as part of their education. For that reason, this is really a wonderful opportunity for the players on the baseball team, especially since they will simultaneously take a course on Cuba with one of our great professors.”
The class will be led by Luis Duno-Gottberg, associate professor of Caribbean and Film Studies and chair of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American studies, and will begin in August on the Rice campus with other fall-semester classes.
While the trip for Rice baseball will be a first, Duno-Gottberg has been taking Rice students to Cuba for a number of years.
“The course will provide Rice students six credit hours and involve in-depth exploration of all things Cuban,” Duno-Gottberg said. “From its history to its modern political culture, Cuba is a unique country that has a complicated relationship with the U.S. In this seminar, we will examine the historical evolution of Cuba’s politics and culture, the contextual basis of that evolution with Latin America as well as the prospects for future relations with the U.S. and the global community.”